Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel is passionate about his native city, Aleppo, in Syria, and loves the inhabitants. Aleppo is a bustling, thriving city until war destroys the covered bazaars where people mingle and purchase goods, decimates buildings with bombs and fire, and forces people to flee for their lives.
But Alaa doesn’t run away. He’s an ambulance driver who can’t turn his back on his wounded neighbors. He risks danger to transport them to safe havens and offers them comfort.
Alaa misses his family who have escaped the city. He longs for the way life used to be. In his distress, he notices more than the suffering of people; he also sees many abandoned, hungry cats. He knows that, though he can’t do anything to change the fact of war or that his loved ones have left, he can care for the cats.
And Alaa does! He begins small, buying meat for a few cats and offering water, but soon so many felines arrive, he needs to enlist the help of others. Social media and word of mouth lead to a deluge of donations, and Alaa is able to build a shelter for the cats and other abandoned animals. Eventually, he also builds a playground for children who remain in the city, digs a well, and feeds hungry people.
Based on the true story of Alaa, now known worldwide as the Cat Man of Aleppo, this heartwarming children’s picture book shows that one person can galvanize a movement of people to bring restoration and healing. Authors Karim Shamsi-Basha and Irene Latham’s realistic, yet hopeful narrative and illustrator Yuko Shimizu’s contrasting dark and vivid pictures sensitively deal with the blight of war, but tip the balance toward love, compassion, and beauty.
(G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers)