About This Book:
*Review Contributed by Beth Rodgers, Staff Reviewer*
The Turtle of Michigan’ by Naomi Shihab Nye is a wonderfully engaging read about a young boy named Aref (pronounced “R-F”) and the journey he takes with his parents to move across the world from Oman to Michigan. It is an entirely different world, and even though Aref finds it special and exciting, he also truly misses his grandfather, whom he calls Sidi (pronounced “C-D”). Some of the story is told through letters that they write to each other, while other parts are narrated, and still others are Aref’s journal entries telling about his new life.
Aref loves turtles, and he wants to have one of his own. The title is a beautiful metaphor for Aref’s life and the way in which he little by little takes steps to grow into his surroundings and find the beauty therein. He desperately wants Sidi to come and visit so they can spend more time together, because he won’t be coming home with his parents for three years while they study at the University of Michigan.
For those who have ever been to Ann Arbor, Michigan or attended the University of Michigan themselves, this book is a fascinating exploration of parts of campus and aspects of the state of Michigan that they may not be aware of already. I myself am a graduate of the school, and there were plenty of interesting and thought-provoking ideas that I looked up to see if they were based in truth just because I didn’t know much, if anything, about them yet. The author has done a great job weaving together a story about a boy who misses home but is eager to embrace his new world with learning so much about the beauty of the place where he has moved.
There are lots of new opportunities for Aref, including joining his school’s anti-bullying club, having sleepovers with new friends, running through fields, having meals with his neighbors, and so much more. It is a beautiful, realistic, thoroughly engaging story and one which is a nice addition to any booklover’s shelf.