Moving to a new place is usually not a welcome experience for most young people, and Aref is no exception. Though he knows many American students from his years as a student at the American International School in Muscat, he has never been the new kid. Now as his parents prepare for their doctoral programs in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Aref faces the challenge of making new friends as he learns about his new home. Most importantly, he will do that without the quiet guidance of his Siti, the grandfather whose model for living has shaped Aref's life.
And so, as Aref's mother cleans and packs and organizes, Siti and Aref spend time reminiscing, gathering memories, learning together, and dreaming of what they will do when Aref returns in three years. The two head out in Siti's old vehicle, affectionately named Monsieur, and spend a glorious night at the Night of a Thousand Stars camp. "This was the way they talked for miles and miles, syllables unrolling with the pavement." (p. 135) Savoring roasted nuts, weighed on a balance with brass weights, watching turtles roll in the ocean waves, sleeping in a tent, meeting friends along their route...all these things keep Aref grounded in the love of his Siti. The wise man knows that the experiences they share will resonate with his grandson in his new home.
The chapter titles kept me intrigued, the tiny ink illustrations by the paragraph indents are lovely, and the way her words play out on the page and in Siti's and Aref's dialogue added to my love of this quiet book. I know just the readers who will enjoy it, too.