Eight-year-old Aref loves nature, making lists, his family, his grandfather Sidi and his home in Muscat, Oman. When his parents decide to finish their doctorates in Michigan, Aref refuses to embrace the move. The important things—school, friends, his grandfather, the sea turtle beach—do not fit in Aref’s suitcase, and he finds himself getting in his mother’s way while sinking into sadness. Underneath his sadness is fear: Will Sidi be here in three years when Aref returns? Will Aref remember Muscat?
Gently and tenderly, Sidi pulls his grandson away from the packing and takes him out into the world they love. They visit beloved, familiar places and have adventures in new ones. They spend a night in the desert where they see the night sky free from light pollution. They meet a falconer, and Aref watches as the falcon flies away and then returns. They sleep on Sidi’s rooftop and take a boat ride into the harbor to do some fishing. They save important stones and memories along the way.
In a world of speed and instant information, it is a blessing to slow down with Aref and his grandfather and to think about what we love and what we would miss if we had to leave it. Nye’s poetic prose is so filled with tenderness that I found myself slowing down and rereading long passages just to enjoy the feel of the words on my tongue. It’s been a long time since I have read a book that has brought me that special kind of pleasure, and I look forward to sharing this with children and adults.
Robin Smith lives in Nashville, where she teaches second grade, knits and reads, sometimes all at the same time.