Books by Omar Rayyan

POSSUM SUMMER by Jen K. Blom
ANIMALS
Released: June 1, 2011

"Readers with a hankering for a modern, Midwest animal tale could do worse. (Fiction. 8-11)"
Eleven-year-old Princess desperately wants a pet, but her father says animals on a farm must earn their keep. Read full book review >
ADVENTURE
Released: Oct. 1, 2009

Following beautiful, cinnamon-scented Natasha, adventurous Frederick and his food-loving brother, Ishbu, leave their comfortable classroom cage and travel through Scotland and northern Europe to rescue her father, Professor Ratinsky, from the clutches of the nefarious Big Cheese. As readers of The Mystery of the Burmese Bandicoot (2007) already know, these are no ordinary fifth-grade rats. Ishbu is loyal and determined, and Frederick can read. His inventive mind and extensive knowledge of geography make it possible for all four of them to escape treacherous show mouse Mo-mo, rat-terrier henchmen Snip and Snarl, and the blind possum Big Cheese himself. The story moves quickly, helped by cliffhanging chapter endings, but the author (a former teacher) packs in interesting incidental information and intriguing new vocabulary. An afterword offers more detail about topics as varied as show mice, mousetrap catapults and the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade. A sequel that can stand alone, this lively adventure will appeal to able middle-grade readers who like to learn as much as Frederick does. (Fantasy. 8-12)Read full book review >
WAGGIT AGAIN by Peter Howe
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2009

In this lovely sequel to Waggit's Tale (2008), which introduced the irrepressible former stray, Howe delves deeper into the bond between humans and dogs and explores friendship, loyalty, courage and doing what's right. At the outset, Waggit is chained on a farm, believing himself to have been inexplicably abandoned by his loving former owner. Escaping this peril, he meets Felicia, a bohemian woman who has the gift of understanding and communicating with dogs. Along the road back to his Central Park home, they encounter Lug, an abused, fearful pit bull. When they find Waggit's original team of strays, he is heartily welcomed, and Felicia and Lug are warily accepted. All is not as it seems, though: Adventures ensue, and allegiances are tested. In the hands of a less-skilled writer, the magical realism of the dog-whispering Felicia might seem unnatural and maudlin at best; here, her relationship with the dogs is made wonderfully plausible. Waggit's growth in self-understanding is also fully developed and well handled, and the ending will satisfy readers deeply. (Fantasy. 9-12)Read full book review >
WAGGIT’S TALE by Peter Howe
ANIMALS
Released: July 1, 2008

Howe makes an auspicious children's-book debut in this satisfying novel about an abandoned puppy who finds a family among a pack of stray dogs in Central Park. The pup, dubbed "Waggit" by his new friends, soon finds himself adapting to their ways and discovers his talents as a hunter and tracker. A fearsome group of enemy dogs, however, shares the same domain and leads an equally precarious life. Readers will get caught up in the dogs' adventures and the sad realities of life as a stray: The pound is an ever-present threat, one that Waggit learns about from first-paw experience. His rescue by a loving woman leads to a touching conclusion. Waggit's relationship with his compatriots develops well and lovingly, with humor. While the dogs speak English for readers' convenience, children will nevertheless get a realistic and sobering idea of the dangers strays face, and they will be heartened by the dogs' intelligence and camaraderie. A pleasant read for middle graders, dog lovers or otherwise. (glossary) (Fiction. 9-12)Read full book review >
ADVENTURE
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

After escaping from their comfortable classroom cage, two rat brothers journey around the world, caught up in a plot to steal a jeweled statue—the fabled Burmese Bandicoot—and to exterminate humankind. More adventure than mystery, this is an inviting introduction to what promises to be a series starring courageous Frederick and comfort-loving Ishbu. Cox returns to the idea of rats as classroom pets she introduced in Third Grade Pet (1998), with these engaging explorers, personified but still representative of their species in appearance, skills and appetites. Frederick's excellent education is nicely counterbalanced with Ishbu's strong moral sense. Occasional classic quotations support the idea that, though caged, Frederick has paid attention in class. Small drawings of the rats introduce each short chapter. An endnote provides some facts about rats and bandicoots, as well as the Karni Mata Temple, the Fire Balloon Festival of Myanmar and the Australian Big Bird Race, all of which appear in the story. Fast-paced and suspenseful, this is solid entertainment for the middle-grade reader. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
THE DRAGON OF NEVER-WAS by Ann Downer
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 2006

Downer should have left her likable 12-year-old protagonist alone rather than dragging her through this mediocre sequel. Having met wizards and dragons last summer, Theodora has difficulty fitting back into regular life. When her father's called to a tiny Scottish island to identify a mysterious scale, Theodora goes along. Did the scale fall off a dragon? Who's the creepy vagabond? Who's evil? A seephole threatens to open and suck the island into the unpleasant realm of Never-Was. Theodora fulfills her destiny by claiming magical powers inherited from her long-dead mother and riding a dragon into Never-Was. Characters are sparkly and appealing, the plot pleasing. However, wizards' spells are facile, as are Theodora's achievements (training a biddable fire; saving the island). Never-Was is too minimally explored, while many things are unnecessarily spelled out. Harmless, but not especially gripping. (Fantasy. 8-11)Read full book review >
THE RING OF TRUTH by Teresa Bateman
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 15, 1997

Bateman's first book is a beautifully layered, consistently sprightly take on the notion that truth is stranger than fiction. Itinerant peddler Patrick O'Kelley habitually tells magnificent lies, blarneying his gullible customers into purchasing scarves and trinkets. When he hears of a blarney contest in County Donegal, he sets his cap for the prize of a pot of gold, boasting that he ``can spout better blarney than the king of the leprechauns himself.'' The king's mountain has ears (proof is in one of Rayyan's witty complementary illustrations), and the king decides to teach Patrick a lesson. In the throne room to which Patrick has been summoned, the king bestows upon Patrick a Ring of Truth; the wearer cannot lie while it is on his finger, and cannot remove it. Without his sales pitch, Patrick loses business, for ``people . . . were now sore disappointed'' in Patrick, and they run the hapless peddler out of town after town. All is not lost—when Patrick tells the amazing truth of why he no longer qualifies for the competition, the people believe his story to be the biggest blarney of all, awarding him the gold. Through the ``fair folk,'' Patrick is provided with further truthful material for his tales, never believed by listeners in the grosser world. It's a reality that creates a larger, ironical wrapping for this tale; fanciful illustrations take off from a Renaissance base to provide yet another twist on the central theme. A cohesive, enchanting book. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
RAMADAN by Suhaib Hamid Ghazi
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 15, 1996

Ghazi, while never stating forthrightly that Allah is the same God Christians and Jews worship, explains Ramadan, Islam's holiest month, with pedantry as the guiding force. Readers learn about the Islamic faith, who Muslims are, how a lunar calendar works, the liturgies inside a mosque, and the enchanted hour of the pre-dawn meal just before the inception of a day of fasting. Beyond the fictionalized framework of the boy Hakeem's personal rites and family traditions, there is little to make the information memorable. That's not true of Rayyan's artwork, which is replete with images of the sacred and the profane; it's an eyeful of Islamic motifs, from delicate filigree to miniature panels to a well-lighted mosque that appears to be carved out of the dark. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-10) Read full book review >
RIMONAH OF THE FLASHING SWORD by Eric A. Kimmel
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 15, 1995

A North African version of Snow White, with forty thieves in the role of the seven dwarfs. In its new setting, the familiar story picks up a series of exotic gimmicks—bedouins in the desert, a pendant in the shape of a scorpion that comes alive after sunset, a flying carpet on which the wicked stepmother tries to escape—but the plot remains more or less the same. However, Kimmel has considerably reworked the traditional story by turning Rimonah into a ``fearless young woman who rode with the reckless daring of a bedouin horseman''—attractive by virtue of her actions as well as her looks. Rayyan's illustrations—thin, layered watercolors- -achieve a strong effect in subtle ways. His palette is soft, fragile; his carefully constructed compositions show expressive draftsmanship. The poses of the characters, the arrangements of the groups, the geometric interiors—everything has an eloquence that is completely independent of color. (Picture book/folklore. 4-8) Read full book review >