I loved Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet for its loving #ownvoices immersion in a British Pakistani family adapting to life in a new town, new job, new school and new neighbourhood, some good, some mean but ultimately kindness, empathy and friendship prevail it was one of my favourite highly-illustrated books of the year, so when I found out that that Zanib Mian was bringing us more adventures on Planet Omar I was so excited.
I’m so pleased to say that Omar has returned better than ever and with wonderful illustrations returning from Nasaya Mafaridik.
Things have been great for Omar recently. School is great now he and Charlie are friends with Daniel and the whole family seems happier and particularly more settled since finding the right mosque, even their elderly neighbour Mrs Rogers cannot wait to come and celebrate Eid with them there.
BUT! The Mosque’s roof is collapsing and they need to urgently raise £30,000 to repair it or they will have to close. Omar tells Charlie and Daniel who resolve to help raise as much money as possible from selling cookies and crafts and even hosting a talent show.
But when the money goes missing, it takes letting go of judgements to discover the truth.
I adore Omar, he is quite frankly the sweetest young boy! Zanib Mian has captured beautifully the playful imagination and silliness of a young boy from imagining his dream house in Paradise for helping save the Mosque to the games in the playground with his friends. You can’t help but love Omar whether he is caught sneaking down to play X-Box after bedtime or giving his mum the most creative (though not necessarily enjoyable) full-sensory spa treatment ever.
I also love how his new friend Daniel’s revealed fragility extends into this book as he is transformed into a warm and playful boy yet still wobbly about whether he is liked, and yet Charlie and Omar are wonderfully supportive, open and encouraging to him. This kindness and empathy is beautiful to see in children’s books but particularly from young boys modelling a kind of masculinity that embraces emotions and kindness.
In the original Planet Omar, Zanib Mian embedded into the text details and explanations about British-Pakistani and British Muslim life within a frankly gorgeous and loving family. This book similarly explores concepts such as Halal in a natural yet informative way as even little brother Esa struggles with why he cannot have sausages or regular Haribo, explained and shown in a clear and positive way with no judgement.
This book is equally fabulous in that way to build empathy but also to celebrate diversity with young British Pakistani and Muslim children recognising themselves in Omar’s family and the way they have both British and Pakistani-Muslim elements from spaghetti bolognese and nerfguns to rising for morning prayers and the joy of biryani though are always rounded individuals never limited by these factors.
Planet Omar is a super-cute illustrated adventure through the life of Omar as he shines and struggles but always with kindness and good intentions in his heart. I thoroughly look forward to continuing Omar’s story in Book 3: The Incredible Rescue mission publishing in June.
Planet Omar 2: Unexpected Super Spy by Zanib Mian illustrated by Nasaya Mafiridik is published by Hodder.