Reviews for The Cat Man of Aleppo

by Karim Shamsi-Basha

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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 emptiesexcept 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 who 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 Reviews, used with permission.


Horn Book
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In 2012, civil war comes to Aleppo, then the largest city in Syria. Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel is an ambulance driver who remains behind while many of his neighbors flee. Soon his area is filled with abandoned cats, whose "lonely, confused faces remind Alaa of the loved ones he has lost." He begins feeding them (and, as cat lovers know, stray cats return to their food source). News of Alaa's actions circulates on social media, and he becomes known as the "Cat Man of Aleppo"; an outpouring of donations allows him to create a cat sanctuary. This gentle book emphasizes that in the midst of chaos, caring for the forgotten and discarded, no matter how small, affirms the preciousness of all life. In an author's note, Shamsi-Basha explains that during wartime, animals, too, "suffer, and caring for them illuminates what it means to be human." Shimizu's ink, watercolor, and digital illustrations capture scenes of human despair and physical wreckage along with images of cats perching (and napping) in burnt-out cars and on heaps of rubble. Other images showing the "hope and love [that] fill people's hearts," along with the playground Alaa builds and the wells he helps dig in the city, reflect optimism and solace. An introductory note by Alaa, printed in English and Arabic, along with appended author and illustrator notes and art references, provide additional context. (c) Copyright 2021. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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 emptiesexcept 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 who 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 Reviews, used with permission.

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