The Cat Man of Aleppo

Pages: 40
Imprint: Rock the Boat

The Cat Man of Aleppo

Irene Latham, Karim Shamsi-Basha

Out of the ravages of war came hope. How an act of kindness inspired millions worldwide.


9781786077509 (8 Jul 2021)
RRP £12.99

The Book

When war came to Syria, many fled the once-beautiful city of Aleppo and were forced to become refugees in far-flung places. But Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel decided to stay and work as an ambulance driver, helping the civilians that couldn't leave. He quickly realised that it wasn't just people who needed care, but also the hundreds of cats abandoned on the streets.

Using the little money he earned, he began feeding and looking after them. But there were too many for Alaa to care for on his own, so he asked the world for help. Soon, his call was answered.

Alaa's brave and heartening story is brought to triumphant life on these pages, which include a note from Alaa himself.


Alaa's cat sanctuary has expanded to work with local children traumatised by a lifetime of war. To find out more about his work, visit

Additional Information

Pages 40
Imprint Rock the Boat


About the Author

Irene has written many children's books, including Can I Touch Your Hair? co-written with Charles Waters (Rock the Boat, 2019), Leaving Gee's Bend (2011 ALA Children's Book of the Year) and Meet Miss Fancy. Irene lives in Birmingham, Alabama. Karim immigrated to the United States in 1984 from Damascus, Syria. His blog, Arab in Alabama, is on the Huffington Post. He has written and photographed extensively for print and online including People, Time and Southern Living. This is his children's debut.


'Shimizu's digitally coloured paintings, echoing Edo-era Japanese art, are masterfully emotive... This story could work effectively as a readalone or a readaloud, and it feels as much like folklore as narrative nonfiction with Alaa's connection to his feline friends appearing almost magical at times. Teachers will appreciate this gentle introduction to a devastating conflict, and audiences will find solace in the reminder of humanity in the direst times.' 

- The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

'Latham and Shamsi-Basha pick out the glimmers of light that make up Alaa's story, and Shimizu portrays their beauty.'

- Publishers Weekly, starred review

'A beautifully told and illustrated story that offers a unique perspective on both war and humanity.'

- Kirkus, starred review

'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.'

- Booklist, starred review

'Latham and Shamsi-Basha simply and charmingly relate Alaa's deeds, enabling young readers to connect closely with their subject. Alaa's admirable actions offer the audience an excellent example of how simple acts of kindness can create large ripples of change.'

- Shelf Awareness, starred review

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