Often children’s stories of refugees fleeing war are hopeful in a forced way that seems to want to protect them from the reality of what is going on in the world. As adults we often cling to the ones with happy endings for our children and for ourselves, because the tragic ones are too numerous and overwhelming to comprehend. This book marvelously does a great job for those older children in the middle that are beginning to understand the world around them, while not bombarding them with the severity of how cruel we can be to one another. This true story instead focuses on a beloved cat and all the humans of different backgrounds, all over the world that help reunite her with her family. Giving hope, but also showing the difficulty in the world, and the effects even one person can have in making a difference.
Kunkush’s family goes to great pains to get themselves (all 6 of them) out of Mosul, and away from the war. That the fact they sneak their beloved cat with them, shows just how much a member of the family he is. They drive through the night, and walk for days over a mountain, they reach a Kurdish village where they sneak the cat on a bus to Turkey, they then have to cross the Aegean Sea to Greece, only to land in Lesbos and have Kunkush disappear. The family searches as long as they can, but alas have to move on to their new home. From here the story switches from following the family to following the cat and all the people determined to reunite him with his family. Unfortunately, they don’t know where the family is. Amy, a volunteer, takes the cat to the vet to get cleaned up, and then creates an internet campaign to try and find his family. People from all over the world donate to his care, and his travel expenses. Eventually, Amy takes the cat to Germany, where many refugees have resettled and continues her search. Finally, word gets to the family in Norway, and Doug, a photographer, arranges to fly the cat to her new home. Alhumdulillah.
One could argue that countless people are misplaced each day due to war, and we overlook it because it is easier than dealing with it, so why care about a cat. And to that I challenge the skeptic, animal lover or not, to read this book and not have your heart-strings tugged.
The book is done beautifully. The pictures are warm and endearing and are the only proof that the family is Muslim, by their hijabs. The love the family has for their pet is expressed in the illustrations, and even more so by the real photographs at the end of the book following the Note from Doug and Amy. At 48 pages the book works really well for 3rd grade and up (it isn’t AR) who can marvel at the cat’s journey. I particularly think this book is a great way to show children another aspect of refugees. There are a fair amount of books that talk about the refugee experience or show refugees getting adjusted to a new home. But, this is a great way to show that refugees are not just defined by a word. They are vibrant individual people just like everyone else. By focusing on the cat and his journey, the reader sees what a refugee goes through, particularly this family, and hopefully will stop and think about it. But it doesn’t just show the family in that capacity, it shows them as a vibrant family who loves and desperately misses their cat- something more children may be able to relate to.