Omar Rising

 
4.7 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
49 0
Omar Rising
Author(s)
Age Range
10+
Release Date
February 01, 2022
ISBN
978-0593108581
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Omar knows his scholarship to Ghalib Academy Boarding School is a game changer, providing him—the son of a servant—with an opportunity to improve his station in life. He can't wait to experience all the school has to offer, especially science club and hopefully the soccer team; but when he arrives, his hopes are dashed. First-year scholarship students aren't allowed to join clubs or teams—and not only that, they have to earn their keep doing menial chores. At first Omar is dejected—but then he gets angry when he learns something even worse—the school deliberately "weeds out" kids like him by requiring them to get significantly higher grades than kids who can pay tuition, making it nearly impossible for scholarship students to graduate. It's a good thing that in his favorite class, he’s learned the importance of being stubbornly optimistic. So with the help of his tightknit new group of friends—and with the threat of expulsion looming over him—he sets out to do what seems impossible: change a rigged system.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Stubbornly Optimistic
Overall rating
 
4.7
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
The book deals with important social issues of inequality, prejudice, and injustice. Initially, Omar is unaware he’s a victim of these problems and is thankful for the opportunities offered with his scholarship to a prestigious, private school. He continues to have dreams of becoming an astronomer but they’re challenged when he learns that he needs to complete community service each week and he can’t participate in extracurricular activities. He knows he’s from a poor family but he doesn’t feel poor until he’s called a charity case by a rich, enabled classmate.
The author delves into Omar’s thoughts and feelings allowing readers to experience his frustrations and fragile morale. He has high hopes for the school and understands it will be more difficult than his previous education. He experiences joy and success on the soccer field and in math class so he’s especially upset when he learns he can’t be part of the school team. Readers will fully understand the unfairness of the school when Omar’s effort and commitment are questioned while he’s already putting in extra time studying and working in the kitchen. Hopes for remaining in the school dwindle as the plot moves along.
Omar has a supportive group of friends, some with scholarships and some without. They come from different family backgrounds with different levels of wealth but they still treat each other as comrades. The scholarship students are burdened with extra expectations so they realize they may need to share their individual talents in order to survive their classes. Omar is constantly told that he needs to allow time to relax but he feels like he needs to spend all of his time studying. He doesn’t want to cause his family stress and he doesn’t want to let the school know about his troubles. He eventually confides in his best friend from home and she provides him with valuable advice that begins to produce optimism.
What didn’t work as well:
I’m not sure if a boy struggling to succeed in school will fully engage young readers but the story is so much more than that. Yes, much of the plot involves Oliver’s struggles with English class and meeting the school’s requirements but the true story is about an underdog battling to defeat injustice.
The Final Verdict:
The story will resonate with lovers of underdog stories and the author saves a couple of surprises for the second half of the book. Injustice always creates emotional responses within readers so their engagement should be guaranteed. I recommend you give this book a shot.
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A look at life in Pakistan
Overall rating
 
4.7
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Omar is very pleased that he managed to get into the prestigious Ghalib Academy for Boys, but he is also nervous about it. It means leaving his mother and boarding at the school, and not coming home again until December. He's excited about learning about the planets, and looking forward to reacquainting himself with boys he met at the summer program at the school. He's sad about leaving his friends, especially Amal, who is back home after her horrible year in Amal Unbound. Ghalib is a great school, with a terrific library, new science labs, and a kind and supportive art teacher. Omar has good friends in Kareem, whose father works at the school, Naveed, and even older Faisal. Aiden, however, is cold and rude, and thinks the school is not very nice, since his father is very wealthy. Headmaster Moiz has put all of the Scholarship Boys into an English language class that he teachers, and Omar feels that he doesn't like him very much. The Scholarship boys also have to do five hours of service at the school, from folding laundry to cleaning to helping out in the kitchen, and are not allowed to be in any clubs. Most of the other students don't seem to look down at them for this, but the requirements of the scholarship don't allow much time for anything but studying. Omar does take a few breaks, and talks to his mother on the phone, but he is very concerned about his grades, especially since they aren't good in Moiz's class. He starts an interesting art project, and when he returns home in December, Amal tells him that he doesn't have to suffer through everything alone. He asks Moiz for help with English and starts to do better in class. His art project goes well, and he even starts to understand and befriend Aiden. When the end of the year rolls around, Omar and Naveed's grades aren't good for them to receive a scholarship the next year. They feel that the requirements are unfair, and rally the other students around this injustice. Will it be enough for them to be able to return?
Good Points
Amal Unbound has been a very popular book; it's being used by a seventh grade teacher for a class unit, and I'm sure that my readers will be very happy to see more about life in Pakistan. Any story that shows my students how lucky they are to be able to come to school every day is one that I enjoy, and Omar's struggles to do well in class are quite admirable. My students are interested in boarding school stories, so movie nights, sneaking into the kitchen, and playing sports with friends will appeal to them. Omar's family situation is very interesting, and it was good to see Amal's family again.

I would have liked to see more descriptions of the classrooms and activities, and also more adventures outside the school, but it's hard to fit everything into the book. One of the things I liked best about Amal Unbound was the description of every day life.

Readers who want to know more about the lives of children their age in other parts of the world will enjoy this one along with Hashimi's One Half From the East, Ellis' The Breadwinner, and Schroeder's Saraswati's Way.
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