Planet Omar: Unexpected Super Spy by Zanib Mian, illustrated by Nasaya Mafaridik

Planet Omar: Unexpected Super Spy by Zanib Mian, illustrated by Nasaya Mafaridik. Penguin, 9780593109243, 2020

Format: Hardcover, 141 pages

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

What did you like about the book? Utilizing copious illustrations and other graphic techniques, Mian brings readers into the life of Omar as he navigates school, an older sister, and possibly loosing the Mosque that he and his family attend.  Omar and his best friends, Charlie and Daniel (who used to bully him) are on a quest to get Nerf blasters when Omar learns of the possible demolition of his mosque.  Nerf blasters are put on hold as the trio brainstorms ways to save this sacred place.  The story does a fine job of introducing Muslim customs while weaving in Omar’s fundraising fiascos.  The focus on cross-cultural friendship and determination is refreshing and helps move the story along.  Using humor to highlight family life and dealing with older siblings is sure to please younger readers.  A basic plot, funny illustrations, and large font will be a hit with reluctant readers or graphic novel fans.  A nice story about working together as a community and developing friendships.

Anything you didn’t like about it? The plot of this book is kinetic and predictable.  The supporting characters are not well developed, yet add life to the text.  Not a negative, bathroom humor and puns abound and will surely engage younger readers.  

To whom would you recommend this book? Readers in grades 2 and up who enjoy realistic fiction, humorous family stories, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or books in series will enjoy this text.  

Who should buy this book? This would be a good purchase for elementary schools or public libraries that cannot get enough simple chapter books for struggling readers with Muslim protagonists.  

Where would you shelve it? Realistic Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  I feel that this title would reside near the middle of a “to read” pile.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Elena Schuck, Nathaniel H. Wixon School Library, Dennis, Massachusetts

Date of review: November 29, 2020

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