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

READ REVIEW

THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO

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 empties—except 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)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1378-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A refreshing dive past some of our world’s marine wonders.

THE BIG BOOK OF THE BLUE

Denizens of the deep crowd oversized pages in this populous gallery of ocean life.

The finny and tentacled sea creatures drifting or arrowing through Zommer’s teeming watercolor seascapes are generally recognizable, and they are livened rather than distorted by the artist’s tendency to place human eyes on the same side of many faces, Picasso-like. Headers such as “Ink-teresting” or “In for the krill” likewise add a playful tone to the pithy comments on anatomical features or behavioral quirks that accompany the figures (which include, though rarely, a white human diver). The topical spreads begin with an overview of ocean families (“Some are hairy, some have scales, some have fins and some are boneless and brainless!”), go on to introduce select animals in no particular order from sea horses and dragonets to penguins and pufferfish, then close with cautionary remarks on chemical pollution and floating plastic. The author invites readers as they go to find both answers to such questions as “Why does a crab run sideways?” and also a small sardine hidden in some, but not all, of the pictures. For the latter he provides a visual key at the end, followed by a basic glossary.

A refreshing dive past some of our world’s marine wonders. (index) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-500-65119-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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A promising debut spoiled by a design issue and cultural insensitivity.

HOOT AND HOWL ACROSS THE DESERT

LIFE IN THE WORLD'S DRIEST DESERTS

Creatively stylized images of flora and fauna native to some 15 deserts around the world.

Interspersing her examination with closer looks at camels and at sand dunes, the bird communities associated with acacia trees, and like intriguing sidelights, Tzomaka poses groups of select residents from all three types of desert (hot, cold, and coastal) against sere backdrops, with pithily informative comments on characteristic behaviors and survival strategies. But significant bits of her presentation are only semilegible, with black type placed on deep blue or purple backgrounds. And rarely (if ever) have desert animals looked so…floral. Along with opting for a palette of bright pinks, greens, and purples rather than natural hues for her flat, screen-print–style figures, Tzomaka decorates them with contrasting whirls of petals and twining flourishes, stars, scallops, pinwheels, and geometric lines or tessellations. Striking though these fancies are, artistic license has led her into some serious overgeneralizations, as she claims to be drawing on regional folk motifs for inspiration—justifying the ornate ruffs and borders on creatures of the Kalahari with a vague note that “African tribes make accessories and jewelry…decorated with repeated lines, circles and dots,” for instance, and identifying a Northwest Coastal pattern on an arctic fox as “Inuit.” Readers may find less shifty footing in more conventional outings like Jim Arnosky’s Watching Desert Wildlife (1998).

A promising debut spoiled by a design issue and cultural insensitivity. (map, index) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-500-65198-8

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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