Planet Omar: Incredible Rescue Mission by Zanib Mian, illustrated by Nasaya Mafaridik is the third installment in this brilliantly funny series published by Hodder Children’s Books.
In this book, Omar and his friends are shocked when they go back to school in September to find their teacher, Mrs Hutchinson (best teacher in the world), has been replaced by the much grumpier Mrs Crankshaw (or Mrs CrankyForSure as she becomes known). After a bit of detective work, fueled in part by Omar’s fantastic and unwavering imagination, Omar comes to the only conclusion there can be: Mrs Hutchinson has been abducted by aliens.
The friends embark on a rescue mission but they just can’t seem to get the grown ups to take them seriously enough to help. What’s more, Omar is about to head off to a family wedding in Pakistan, but that doesn’t mean he will be any less dedicated to his investigations.
Omar approaches his trip to Pakistan with his usual amount of humour and curiosity as he experiences the sights and sounds of a new country, meets family members for the first time and learns more about his culture and heritage, it’s a real joy to see this through his eyes.
We really enjoy the Planet Omar books and this is an excellent addition to the series. The characters are relatable, the story lines are exciting and the comic book style illustrations that often form part of the text, make for engaging books that are perfect for newly independent readers.
Zanib Mian wrote Planet Omar in response to both the misrepresentation of Muslims in the media and the lack of representation of BAME characters in children’s books. They are a shining example of what we need to see more of on our bookshelves, in our libraries and in our schools.
Speaking about writing as Omar, Zanib hoped he would be a character “kids from all backgrounds will love. He is unconsciously himself. I wanted the message to be clear: you can be yourself, even if you’re different, and still be loved! … an empowering message to give to any child, and particularly to young Muslim readers who might not have seen themselves represented in a book before.”
The Planet Omar series brings together everything that is needed in terms of representation in children’s fiction; the main character is from a minority, both in his religion and skin colour, but the story is not centred solely on this. Zanib Mian strikes an excellent balance between showcasing what it is like to grow up as a minority in the UK and how that impacts daily life, whilst also providing a window into an ordinary Muslim family’s life.
As well as shining a light on Islam and the lives of Muslims, something a lot of readers will have little or no knowledge of, these books also touch on the negative attitudes and racism that people in minorities face and live with every day. Not only does this highlight the issue to those who don’t share these experiences, it also serves as an excellent base to start much needed conversations about racial injustice, intolerance and how we can all work together to be anti-racist.
Follow Zanib Mian on Twitter – @zendibble
This post was written as part of the blog tour for Incredible Rescue Mission. You can find more content about this book from the bloggers below.
Many thanks to Hodder Children’s Books for sending a copy of this book for review.
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