MUSCAT: Award-winning novelist Naomi Shihab Nye’s children’s book The Turtle of Oman, has been selected by the Washington Post Summer Book Club, as well as several schools and reading clubs in the US.
Speaking to Muscat Daily over phone from the US, Naomi, a recipient of the 2013 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature and born to a Palestinian father and American mother, explained why she chose to set the story in Oman.
“I was always intrigued by Oman. I read a National Geographic article about the sultanate when I was a child and it piqued my interest. I didn’t know much about the sultanate but I wrote the first draft before even visiting the country in 2009. I knew I had to visit to convey the main character’s love of Oman.”
Naomi said that after arriving in Oman, “she was fascinated by the old and the new, the natural and the urban”. “I was very, very touched by the hospitality of the people I met there. The Palestinian community told me that Oman has been kinder to them than any other country, which I really appreciated. I had a chance to visit Oman during the Muscat Festival.
It gave me a sense of the richness of the country in terms of the tradition and the culture.”
The Turtle of Oman is a book about a boy’s love for a place and his family. “I’ve got lots of positive feedback from people who want to go to Oman. I am having lots of conversations about Oman. When I go to schools to talk about the book, I show them mementos and photographs. I feel as though I have become an ambassador of sorts.”
The Turtle of Oman which was released in the fall of 2014 is currently in its second print and targets children between the ages of eight and 12.
“Reading and writing camps have adopted the book. Many schools have been writing to me after picking it.
“It was among the ten best books of the year in several states in the US and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Centre picked it as one of their books for the summer.”
A poet and a songwriter, Naomi, always tells people about the hotel where she stayed in Muscat. “I always say it’s the best hotel in the world. I urge people if they’re flying to India or the UAE to please take time to visit Oman. They always write me back thanking me.
Recently, we had a friend going to Dubai. He said the few days he spent in Oman was the best part of his trip.
“I am very grateful for the sanctuaries and reserves found throughout Oman. I tried to bring that sense of the natural world to my story.”