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The Cat Man of Aleppo

Winner of the Caldecott Honor Award

Irene Latham Karim Shamsi-Basha

Longlisted for the Cogan Heroes Picture Book Award 2023

Winner of the Caldecott Honor
Winner of the Middle East Book Award


‘A beautifully told and illustrated story that offers a unique perspective on both war and humanity.’
Kirkus, starred review

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

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 to keep his new friends safe. Soon, his call was answered.

Alaa’s brave and heart-warming 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

  • Publication date: July 8, 2021
  • ISBN: 9781786077509
  • RRP: £12.99
  • Pages: 40
  • Publication date: July 8, 2021
  • ISBN: 9781786077516
  • RRP: £6.99
  • Pages: 48


‘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

'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

'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

Irene Latham

Author page

More books by Irene Latham

Karim Shamsi-Basha

Author page

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