The Cat Man of Aleppo literature guide

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Civic Responsibility/Virtue
by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha - A guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to learn about the loneliness of a war-torn community and discuss generosity toward community in a time of unrest.

This is the true story of a man who stayed behind in his community when war struck his Middle Eastern country of Syria. While bombs fall and everyone else seeks safety, we see his commitment to maintaining the home and community he loves. When most of his neighbors left to find safety, he drives an ambulance and takes care of the community cats with persistence and care.  

Before Reading

Ask: Have you ever taken care of a neighbor's pet while they were gone on vacation? What were your responsibilities, and what was it like? Why did you take care of the pet?

Show: On the cover, we see a man surrounded by cats. What can you tell about him and his community?

Connect: What would it be like to take care of hundreds of cats? If you could, how would you help the Cat Man of Aleppo? 

During Reading

Ask: What are some things that Alaa does to take care of the neighborhood? Why do you think he does all of that?

Show: This video talks about Alaa's empathy for children and pets who are vulnerable. Listen for why he does this.

Connect: Are there people in your school and community who are feeling sad and lonely because of big events and disasters? What can you say and do to show you care?

After Reading

Ask: What do you think is the theme of the story?

Show: Look at the pictures that show the happy children. What long term effect do you think the experience with the cats will have on Syria's children?

Connect: Does this story remind you of a person in your community? What do they do to support others and the community?


  1. Use colored markers and shapes to create a soothing design that calms. Or, draw a design for someone else to color as a relaxing activity.
  2. What songs does this book make you think of? Make a play list of songs to go with the book.
  3. Write a list of words that describe ways people can be supportive of community when times are hard. 
  4. Check out this lesson from Learning to Give. Learn how to make a "calming kit". Make one for yourself or someone else to help deal with big emotions.