As an adult, I can say that this is very well written. The characters are so well-drawn, I feel as if I know them well - Aref, his grandfather Sidi, and even his mother (who I think I have a lot in common with, personality-wise). The vivid descriptions of the sights, smells, and tastes of Oman make it hard to pull yourself out of the book and back to your regular surroundings. I find myself wanting to visit an area I had not thought much about previously - possibly because it's a relatively peaceful country right now. Politics and religion are not a part of this story, simply a young boy coming to terms with leaving almost everything he knows and loves for what seems to him a very long time, and that is conveyed extremely well.
So, as an adult, I enjoyed the book thoroughly. I am not sure how successful it will be in reaching its intended audience, though. There is a continual sense of waiting for something (Aref's departure for America) to happen, and it wasn't until I was halfway through the book that I realized that wasn't going to happen until after the story was over. Readers who are looking for action, or a climactic event, will be disappointed. There are several gentle climaxes as Aref's wise grandfather helps him become at peace with the future. A very Arabic tale in this respect, but I'm not sure how it will be received by the typical ten-year-old American boy.
Save this one for that introspective young reader, fond of making lists, a lover of facts, perhaps a bit wise beyond his years: give him a good, long look, and hand the book over slowly, saying, "This book isn't for everyone, but I think you might be just right for it."
Thank-you to HarperCollins for the review copy.