Planet Omar: Accidental trouble magnet

Author: Zanib Milan

Illustrator: Nasaya Mafaridik

This is a superb book for children aged 6+ and could be used throughout KS2. I imagine it will be particularly effective for engaging reluctant readers due to the oodles of fun illustration and buckets of humour that make the text non-threatening. Fans of Tom Gates and Diary of a Wimpy kid will love it. It’s also refreshing to see a story that is overflowing with diversity – from author and illustrator to characters and content. I’ve been searching for more books that reflect the diverse community of our school (we are 87% EAL and our largest group is Pakistani Muslim heritage) and so I’m thrilled this is part of a series. Originally published under the title ‘The Muslims’ it was re-released (with new content and illustration) in April 2019 by Hachette Children’s Group.

Omar and his family (two siblings and two scientist parents) are Muslim and have recently moved to a new area. This has brought many worries for Omar but also an imaginary dragon called H2O – yes, like water! He quickly forms a fabulous new friend (Charlie) which unfortunately doesn’t help when he becomes the latest target for a particularly nasty school bully (Daniel) and learns his neighbour is not all that nice either. Even more disaster strikes when he gets lost on a school trip in London… with Monster-Bully-Daniel!! It’s not all doom and gloom though as he takes pride in attempting to fast during Ramadan and has Eid to look forward to – oh, and his Mum’s delicious biryani!

Zanib tells Omar’s story with a lot of humour and from a very relatable child’s perspective. I really felt like Omar was next to me, reading out loud, every time I opened the book. She has really captured the imagination and “inquisitive nature” of Omar which brings a world of colour, mischief and curiosity into everyday situations. The story tackles several issues that many children will relate to and so could be a useful vehicle for opening up discussion with children both at school and home – especially about bullying, moving house or changing school and, importantly, respecting and valuing differences, tolerance and community.

The dedication at the front of the book says:

This book is dedicated to all the children who ever felt that being different is a negative thing.

I absolutely can not wait for the next instalment in the series!


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