Omar’s Snake

I had some awfully good news this week. Mary Cash at Holiday House, one of my favorite editors, accepted my manuscript, Omar’s Snake, for publication. Mary specifically mentioned working on revisions for the opening chapter. I’m interested to hear her ideas, since the opening chapter is critical. In fact, the cover and the opening paragraph—perhaps even the opening sentence—are the most important parts of the book. That’s how most people decide whether or not they want to read it. First, they look at the cover. If that looks interesting, they open to the beginning and read a couple of sentences.

I can’t do anything about the cover since I’m not the artist. However, I do want to make sure the first chapter rocks!

What’s it about? If you’d like to know, go back and check out earlier posts on my blog. I wrote about the story as I developed it. It’s about a boy, Omar, who wants a pet snake. The problem is that his mom is deathly afraid of snakes. What happens when the snake accidentally gets loose?

But that’s just one level. On another level, the book is about phobias—irrational fears that have no justification in face. I’m not just writing about fear of snakes. Omar and his family are Muslims. Omar himself is based on several different boys I’ve enjoyed meeting on school visits around the country. Being a Muslim family is not a big deal. They’re a family like any other, with a few cultural differences, but nothing that a rational person would find frightening or threatening.

That’s the point about phobias that I try to make in the book. They’re not rational. And just as Omar’s mom is terrified of snakes, there are plenty of people today who are terrified of Muslims. The hearings going on in Washington right now about the Muslim-American community being “soft” on terrorism is just one example.

I hope this book will encourage children to think twice when they start getting those messages of fear and prejudice. Don’t let fear into your life. Don’t start seeing threats in every person who looks different. You either rule your fears or they rule you. We end up hating what we fear.

Hate and fear are not healthy for children and other living things.

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