Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet by Zanib Mian

The Blurb On The Back:

My name is Omar.

I have a huge imagination.

I hate marshmallows.

And this is the first book all abut me!

You might not know me yet, but once you open the pages of this book you’ll laugh so hard that snot will come out of your nose (plus you might meet a dragon and a zombie – what more could you want?).

My parents decided it would be a good idea to move house and move me to a new school at the same time.  As if I didn’t have a hard enough time staying out of trouble at home, now I’ve also got to try and make new friends.  What’s worse, the class bully seems to think I’m the perfect target.

At least Eid’s around the corner which means a feast (yay) and presents (double yay).  Well, as long as I can stay in mum and dad’s good books long enough … 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Omar lives with his parents, 13-year-old older sister Maryam and 3-year-old younger brother Esa in London.  His mum and dad are both scientists and because his mum just got her dream job working in cancer research, the whole family has just moved house, which means that Omar has to start at a new school and meet new teachers and try to make new friends.  He is very nervous but fortunately he has a very good imagination, which he uses to keep himself calm when trouble comes knocking – and trouble comes knocking pretty often because Omar is a magnet for it …

Zanib Mian’s illustrated humorous book for children aged 9+ (the first in a series) has a fun main character, good family dynamics and I loved the fact that Islam is incorporated into the story in a way that’s informative without being the point of the book and while Nasaya Mafaridik’s illustrations weren’t complete in the ARC I received, I liked what I saw and the use of different text design really helps bring the story to life.

Omar is a lot of fun as the main character – Mian gives him a bit of a cheeky voice but I liked how up front and honest he is about how he feels about things, especially his nerves about starting a new school, which I think a lot of children will relate to.  What I especially liked about the book though was the family dynamic here and how Mian shows the relationship between Omar and his parents and while there’s a bit of stereotypical rivalry with older sister Maryam, the way they bounce off each other works really well.  Also excellent is the way their faith as Muslims is incorporated into the story so that Omar explains different things to the reader (e.g. what Ramadan and Eid are) in a way that’s very natural and I certainly learnt a few things about what happens in mosques and the way in which you kneel to pray.

Nasaya Mafaridik’s illustrations help bring Omar to life but are especially good in the scenes where he goes off on his flights of fancy.  Unfortunately I only got a broad sense of the style because the illustrations weren’t finished in the ARC that I received, but I certainly enjoyed what I saw and special mention should be made of how the book has been produced, where different font styles are used for certain sections, which helped bring it to life.

My only real criticism of the book is that there wasn’t quite enough of the friendship between Omar and Charlie (who doesn’t get a lot of page time here), but that’s unsurprising given this is the first in a series so I’d be interested to see that develop more.  Also I wasn’t quite convinced by the bullying storyline, notably the way it’s resolved which was a little pat (given the age group of the readers, that’s probably to be expected) but Mian does get points for expressly including racism within that bullying, which is a subject I think many readers in the target age group will sadly have had experience of.

All in all, I thought this was a lot of fun and I would definitely be interested in checking out the next book to see what else Omar and his friends and family get up to.

PLANET OMAR: ACCIDENTAL TROUBLE MAGNET will be released in the United Kingdom on 18th April 2019.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.

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