Aisha Saeed, Author
Nancy Paulsen Books, Fiction, Feb 1, 2022
Suitable for ages: 10-14
Themes: Pakistan, Family Life, Education, Boarding school, Dreams, Courage, Social Injustice
In this gripping companion to New York Times bestseller Amal Unbound, Amal’s lifelong friend Omar shows the world that he’s not going to accept being treated like a second-class citizen at an elite boarding school.
When Omar is chosen for a scholarship to the prestigious Ghalib Academy Boarding School, it is a game changer. It will give him, the son of a servant, a once-in-a-lifetime an opportunity for a better future — and his whole village is cheering him on.
Omar can’t wait to dive into his classes, play soccer, and sign up for astronomy club — but those hopes are dashed when he learns first-year scholarship students can’t join clubs or teams. Instead, they must earn their keep doing menial chores. Even worse, it turns out the school deliberately “weeds out” scholarship kids by requiring them to get grades that are nearly impossible — better than kids who can pay tuition — making it almost impossible for scholarship students to graduate.
While Omar is devastated to find such odds stacked against him, the injustice of it all motivates him to try to do something else that seems impossible: change a rigged system. He and the other scholarship students begin to study and work together, forming their own study group and “family.” There is power in numbers.
Why I like Omar Rising:
Fans of Aisha Saeed’s Amal Unbound, will eagerly devour Omar Rising, a courageous and hopeful story about believing in yourself and finding courage to change an unfair educational system. Saeed’s rich and bold storytelling, coupled with a complex look at the social injustices between classes, makes this story an uplifting contemporary tale for middle grade readers. And look at that beautiful cover!
The all-Pakistani cast of characters is authentic. Omar has his turn in the spotlight when he’s accepted to Ghalib Academy, Omar has the support and pride of his village cheering him — a lot of pressure for this serious and diligent and “stubbornly optimistic” 12-year-old. Omar’s is pleased that his Ghalib roommate is fellow scholarship student, Kareem. He also makes friends with Naveed, a star scholarship student ready to graduate, who advises the boys throughout the year. The threesome will come to depend upon each other if they are going to survive. When other students learn about the unfair treatment of the scholarship students, they want to help. With the support of all the students, they may have a chance to make real change for themselves and others.
The chapters are short, with 4-5 pages. With such a compelling and suspenseful plot, it is a real page-turner. This book belongs in every school, and home library. It is a thought-provoking story that will lead to some very interesting discussions among readers. It’s important that readers learn about the educational barriers other kids face globally.
Aisha Saeed is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Amal Unbound, also and Indie Next Pick and a Global Read Aloud selection, and Yes No Maybe So (co-authored with Becky Albertalli). Her other highly acclaimed books include Written in the Stars, and the picture book Bilal Cooks Daal. As one of the founding members of the much-talked-about #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, she is helping change the conversation about diverse books. Aisha lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and sons. Visit Aisha at her website.
Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.
*Reviewed from a library copy.
14 thoughts on “Omar Rising by Aisha Saeed”
One of my teachers did a book study of Amal Unbound and we were able to have a Skype visit with Ms. Saeed when Omar Rising came out. It was a great time. I love reading about other parts of the world.
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Lucky you! I can only imagine how much the students enjoyed her Skype visit. I love Aisha Saeed’s novels about her country.
I love books demonstrating that children have the power to make changes.
Yes, some of my favorite books to review! I really like how the paying students supported the scholarship students and stood up to the system.
It’s always interesting reading about other countries and cultures. Though I’d love to read a story about the barriers to education girls or religious minorities face in countries like Pakistan. Thanks for the review!
I am with you. I love to hear about the customs and culture and the uphill battles kids face. In this case, they don’t stand for the injustice.
I’ve had this one on my list of books to read for much too long. Amal Unbound was a memorable read so I hope to give this a go later in the summer. The author really captures the feel of life in her native country. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.
I love that Saeed gave Omar his own story. Amal also appears in this story too, but it’s Omar’s time to shine! I love Saeed’s work and have reviewed many of her early novels.
This sounds like a really compelling story. I love that the star scholarship student takes the time to mentor the younger students and help them in their quest. I’m putting this book on my list. Thanks for the review.
Yes, that touched me too. The star scholarship student really worked with and encouraged the boys.
This sounds great. I think Elliott Kurta would love it!
Yes, I think Eliott would love this book!
Sounds like I should start with Amal Unbound – and share with my 13-year-old grandson. Then go to this one!