Two very different cultures collide in this hilarious book about a young sports fanatic named Benny who is forced to leave his home in Ireland and move with his family to Tunisia. He wonders how he will survive in such an unfamiliar place. Then he teams up with wild and resourceful Omar, and a madcap friendship between the two boys leads to trouble, escapades, a unique way of communicating, and ultimately, a heartbreaking challenge. (from Amazon)
For all that I adore this little book, I don’t have much to say about it. I think it’s one of those things where you need to read it for yourself, because if I talk too much about it it’ll ruin the fun of exploring the story for yourself. Nevertheless, I am going to say some things about Benny & Omar because this would be a pretty useless review if I didn’t!
What did I like? I liked the writing, first off. I’m already pretty familiar with Eoin Colfer’s books (I’ve read about four or five), but this one is unlike his others (I mean the fantasies) both in plot and writing style. It’s way more Irish than his other books have been, more like the Roddy Doyle books than the Artemis Fowl books (I realize that AF is Irish himself). The feeling of the book is Irish, even when the story moves to Africa. It’s really great stuff, if you like that sort of thing.
I also liked the whole moral/theme/whatever! It was pretty blatant, with some of the characters even talking about the insider vs outsider thing, but it’s always good to talk about what happens when people from a first-world country move into a third-world country and…not take over, but dictate. It’s a delicate situation, and even though the way it’s presented in the book isn’t delicate, the friendship between Benny and Omar was.
That friendship is another thing I liked. It’s not new, having two kids from opposite “sides” become friends, but it’s always really effective and poignant and heartbreaking. Plus watching them try to communicate is really funny– Omar only speaks in phrases he’s gleaned from watching a bunch of television, and Benny can only say two or three words of Arabic/French. But somehow they get along and understand each other just fine, and it’s a great thing altogether.
So that’s just a little bit of what I liked about Benny & Omar! It’s a fun, fast-paced book with great writing and fantastic characters. I was really pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it.
Read: March 20-21, 2010