Cat Man of Aleppo
by Latham, Irene; Shamsi-Basha, Karim; Shimizu, Yuko (ILT)






"In the midst of the Syrian Civil War, Alaa takes care of Aleppo's abandoned cats"-





Irene Latham is the author of hundreds of poems and nearly twenty current and forthcoming poetry, fiction, and picture books. Winner of the 2016 ILA Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, she lives on a lake in rural Alabama, where the queen of the house is a cat named Maggie.

Karim Shamsi-Basha immigrated to the United States from Damascus in 1984. While in Syria, he spent a year at the University of Aleppo and got to know the people of that ancient city. All of Karim's work embodies love as a universal truth. His desire for people to love one another is where his personal and professional goals intersect.

Yuko Shimizu has been drawing and painting ever since she can remember, and has loved animals just as long. Though she has been illustrating for magazines, newspapers, and books longer than you have lived, this is only her second picture book (Barbed Wire Baseball, 2013). Yuko lives and works with a rescued senior Chihuahua named Bear, who is probably smaller than the cats in Alaa's sanctuary.





*Starred Review* The ongoing civil war in Syria has brought devastation for almost a decade now, and this picture-book collaboration relates that tragedy through the hopeful and incredible true story of Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel. When the war came to Aleppo, many people fled and were forced to leave behind their animals. Alaa, an ambulance driver, began feeding the stranded cats of his abandoned neighborhood, and their numbers quickly multiplied. One social media movement later, he was able to build an animal sanctuary, as well as offer other services for local human survivors. The story of the Cat Man of Aleppo is remarkable in its own right, but it also serves as a bridge between the harsh reality in Syria and young American students, with the cats serving as a more approachable-and relatable-proxy for the people suffering in the background. Shimizu's lifelike illustrations capture the joy and beauty prior to the war, juxtaposing it with the horror and grief that followed. A trio of early spreads depict the trauma, violence, and mass destruction, though there is no gore, and what follows is a purely hopeful tale of love for one's homeland. What a relief to see Middle Easterners depicted as recognizably modern people-through their clothing, technology, and so on-rather than religious caricatures or characters from Aladdin. A safe, sobering, and hopeful introduction to the crisis in Syria. Grades 1-3. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.





*Starred Review* The ongoing civil war in Syria has brought devastation for almost a decade now, and this picture-book collaboration relates that tragedy through the hopeful and incredible true story of Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel. When the war came to Aleppo, many people fled and were forced to leave behind their animals. Alaa, an ambulance driver, began feeding the stranded cats of his abandoned neighborhood, and their numbers quickly multiplied. One social media movement later, he was able to build an animal sanctuary, as well as offer other services for local human survivors. The story of the Cat Man of Aleppo is remarkable in its own right, but it also serves as a bridge between the harsh reality in Syria and young American students, with the cats serving as a more approachable-and relatable-proxy for the people suffering in the background. Shimizu's lifelike illustrations capture the joy and beauty prior to the war, juxtaposing it with the horror and grief that followed. A trio of early spreads depict the trauma, violence, and mass destruction, though there is no gore, and what follows is a purely hopeful tale of love for one's homeland. What a relief to see Middle Easterners depicted as recognizably modern people-through their clothing, technology, and so on-rather than religious caricatures or characters from Aladdin. A safe, sobering, and hopeful introduction to the crisis in Syria. Grades 1-3. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.





When the war comes to Syria, many flee, but Alaa stays in his beloved city, Aleppo, where he continues to work as an ambulance driver and helps the wounded to safety. Day after day, he misses his family and friends who have left, wondering where they are and how they are doing. His neighborhood empties—except for cats! However, these cats are affected by the conflict too; they're left behind with shelters destroyed and food and water stringently limited. Alaa, who has a big heart, starts taking care of them using the little money he has. The love between man and cats multiplies, and many people from around the world step up to help. Soon, the cats of Aleppo get a pleasant shelter set in a courtyard. However, Alaa does not stop there and goes on to help other animals and more people, spreading joy, love, and hope. Based on a true story, this picture book is distinctive for its engaging narrative and impeccable illustrations. It is also enriched with notes from Alaa himself (the real one) as well as the authors and illustrator. The often-dramatic images offer a glimpse of the city prior to the conflict and a window on the real people w ho experience war and try to survive and help others around them. A beautifully told and illustrated story that offers a unique perspective on both war and humanity. (Picture book. 6-9) Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.






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