Aleppo, 3,000 B.C. citadel, and Cat Man

part of Poetry Friday/KidLitoSphere, sparkling this Friday, with poet Liz Steinglass.

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a poem in celebration of Ernesto’s Cat Sanctuary, Syria by JG Annino Peace Color rocks me transforms prey into pal predator into pillow we settle in- wary aloy allies peace be with us and also with you c.2020JanGodownAnnino

a poem in celebration of Ernesto’s Cat Sanctuary, Syria
Peace
Color rocks me
transforms prey
into pal
predator into pillow
we settle in-
wary aloy allies
peace be with us
and also with you
c.2020JanGodownAnnino / sculpture by Anna Annino, 2000

Stone is a core pillar of Earth that baffles me.

How it’s made, the differences between igneous and metamorphic, why some stone is marble and other stone is, for example, crumbly shale. And why Florida, where I live, isn’t stoney. But Syria, for example, defines Stone.

As I turned pages in a new and supremely worthy true-story picture book set in perhaps the oldest continually settled city on Earth, my eyes lasered to artist Yuko Shimizu’s paintings of walls, buildings and ancient paths. Stone of Aleppo, a place where famous people we know of from both the Bible and the Qur’an (Koran) walked millennia ago.

We are talking a community whose trade paths  echo so much of so many languages and intrigues and faiths, the entire Old Aleppo is a World Heritage Site.

On my second and third glances through THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO, as a mother, aunt, and children’s writer,  I honed in on the helpful kids. And yes, on the cats the kids were helping, having grown up with, at one count, 13 named felines, in the Franklin Township woods in New Jersey. There were more who lurked further back in the woods. We fed so many because, word got out, if you dumped a cat near our place across the country lane from the Knispel Dairy, we would take it in. Mom, you would have liked Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel and his unselfish service to people and pets of Aleppo.

Mr. Alijaleel, who asks to be called Alaa, his first name, is a paramedic and ambulance driver. He walked stone paths, pulled open doors in stone walls, knew stone buildings in Syria all his life. And then came war. And then, for the first responder, who stayed to help the wounded, came cats.

Fortunately, a Syrian immigrant in my neighbor state of Alabama, Karim Shamsi-Basha, who had once studied in Aleppo for a year, met one of my favorite children’s poets and storytellers, Irene Latham. Mr. Shamsi-Basha spoke with Alaa. They all teamed up with artist Yuko Shimizu. Alaa opens the book with a letter: “This is a story about cats and war and people. But mostly it is about love.”

This book breaks down boundaries.

It’s going to introduce the artistry of calligraphy in Arabic writing to many schoolchildren. Told in English, the book creators use opportunities to also tell the story in the native language of the good people of Aleppo. Read it and learn ma’amoul and barazek – names of two kinds of cookies.

On back and front endpapers, ethereal double spread skyscapes, closing and opening the book feature an uncountable number of flying peace symbols. Over and over. White doves in the air. No cats. Think about that. A brave choice for a story about cats. This story and illustrations leave me feeling as if, without any credentials whatsoever, I’m invited to sit in on a key United Nations aid committee meeting on healing the Syrian people, physically and emotionally.

Please find this book of good will, book of hope, book of love, book of peace  (Jane Addams Peace. Association, please take note.)

twitter: @theAleppoCatman 

Tabatha Yeatts’ Opposite of Indifference  Poetry Month 4.28.20 entry, “Healing Heart” is about this book.

Betsy Bird has her say. And it’s beautiful.

We saw United Nations’ (UNESCO above) Aleppo pages & here, too, Syrian children’s issues at UNICEF.

Please also know paramedic Alaa’s fellow Syrian, a brave medical student.

Aleppo may be from an old way of saying the Arabic idea to”give out milk,” halaba. We don’t know. We do how in one huge example, the milk of human kindness flows from THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO.

Alessandra Abidin in Italy helped found Aleppo’s Ernesto’s Cat Sanctuary with Alaa. Ernesto was the name of one of her beloved cats. People all over the world join every day to support the work, which now includes not only cats, but also, children orphaned by war and yes, their chickens, goats, and dogs. A veterinarian is on staff, as are a technician and other helpers. The orphan animals help the hearts of shell-shocked children heal. The orphanage Alla’s group created gives kids a home.

All because one man, at the end of a long work day in an Aleppo ambulance, fed starving cats.

c.2020 Yuko Shimizu THE CAT MAN OF       ALEPPO

 

 

 

bookish cheese, with cat & mouse

What was by my side from the Thanksgiving holidays right on through, well, it’s still by my side, is cheese. I’m not talking about the cream cheese with chives of my youth or the brie of my 30s, but the robust hard cheeses of my middle age. And If I look to share blame for this overindulgence, I will charge & convict, but spare a sentence in the Tower of London a particular volume, for being an accomplice in an abundance of cheese love.

The culprit is a deftly illustrated book for ages 9-12  (& for those of us adults who read a lot of children’s books) that is also a beautifully told story of love among unlikely friends: The Cheshire Cheese Cat.

Barry Moser, of his own Pennyroyal Press and many superior  projects, is the artist. And that signals a lot right there. Co-authors are Carmen Agra Deedy,  one of this nation’s most beloved storytellers & a rip-roaring picture book author (The Library Dragon, The Secret Old Zeb  & many more.) I was ever more her fan after I met her last year at the UCF Morgridge International Book Festival. Her co-author here in this is new to me;  Randall Wright  is now a writer I want to become familiar with for titles such as The Silver Penny. 

In this collaboration, an uncommon blue alleycat, Skilley & a London chesse pub’s mouse, Pip,  team up with a perfectly named girl, Nell, & a big bird. It’s fun, it beautifully carries off what the most welcome picture books do-  bringing something clever to the story for adults. It also calls to mind the affection among unlikely characters in the Garth Williams-illustrated classic, The Cricket in Times Square.  Surprises & secrets & yes, some sadness (watch out for that cleaver!) are salted through The Cheshire Cheese Cat, with a fond nod to Dickens & many atmospheric aspects of  Olde London.

“The innkeeper bent forward, hands on knees, and inspected Skilley with a critical eye. London’s alleyways, docks and sewers appeared to have dealt harshly with the young cat. The artful dodging of hansom cabs, chamber pots, and inevitable fishwives’ brooms had left him with a ragged ear, numerous scrapes, and a tracery of scars.”

photo post June 2011

A whirlwind visit of wonder and wonderful connections to South Florida – recently concluded.

My hubby received an award for his juvenile justice work. I luxuriated in visits with gal pals I rarely see, including our daughter’s godmother/my dear college roommate & my great newsroom pal who has raised her family in Russia & Kenya & California, but is rarely in here in FLA, her homestate.

Our family walked the beaches.

And found evidence of ocean stalking.

For my biologist pals – This is a rare beaked whale, found on my dawn walk at the same time the turtle patrol came upon it. The study of this creature will help marine mammal specialists understand this deep-ocean dweller. They usually feed in ocean canyons and are little-researched.  The folo- up news from Hubbs/SeaWorld & others onsite is that the animal died of some natural cause(s). It then became a portable cafeteria, in the circle of life as it drifted inshore.

Florida has an extensive system of lifeguarded beaches; please swim in lifeguarded places ya’ll.

POSTSCRIPT: regarding interest in  more images.

I took two additional views & they are gruesome.

Here is a link to a report in local news

http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2011/jun/09/rare-beaked-whale-carcass-found-on-fort-pierce/

Feb. 13, 2010

Meet me & a ga-zillion other folks at the Florida coast, Feb. 13, 2010 just after lunch at 12:30 p.m.
Link hands along the shore.
Let our leaders know how protective we are, of Florida’s shores.

This is organized by a Seaside Florida restaurant owner.

Visit www.handsacrossthesand.com
or the Facebook page of the same name.

If we don’t show our strength & carry the day, we’ll all be searching for appropriate gear to wear for continual beach clean up. Here’s a future newspaper I conjured up from the coast town where I spent childhood time at the beach. Tar balls, anyone?

About Animals 12

CANINES with COURT GUARDIANS   

Once I read a short story by Marjory Stoneman Douglas about a dog fight, which she set in a dank place outside Miami. 

The character, Agnes, a Latin teacher and humane society volunteer, rushes away into the night from a party when she receives a tip about the fight.  Dressed in a black satin evening gown, she sneaks up on the action and makes her announcement when she’s inched in plain sightj  next to the cage holding the bobcat that is to fight a dog or two or quite a few: “Take those dogs out of here. I am a county deputy sheriff and I order this fight stopped.”  It does stop, with an assist. But I always wondered what happened to the dogs.

In the Michael Vicks dog case (federal prison 23 months, $928,000 to evaluate and care for the dogs) there is a story of serene and sometimes silly days for some survivors. 

Because of an unusual agreement in the Vicks case, the Best Friends Animal Society sanctuary in Utah is the retirement home for 22 of the abused dogs that lived. 

In a front-page New York Times feature, writer Juliet Macur deftly walks us through what dogs endured under the Vicks’ scheme  and what their lives are like now.  These are, of course, only the animals still alive at Bad Newz Kennels, a place on the serenely named Moonlight Road in Smithfield, VA.  This is quite a beautiful story.  Many in rescue think the lives these dogs lead today will make future euthanizations of pit bulls seized from fights less automatic.

In addition to Best Friends, Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit Bulls and at least seven other rescue groups are involved, with about 20 other of the dogs in foster families at many places in the U.S.

www.bestfriends.org

www.topics.nytmes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/mm/juliet_macur/index.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/02/sports/football/02vickdogs.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

    

  

About Animals 11

MAYA the OWL

The little owl ended up on a roadway in need of help.

She was picked up by a tourist and handed along until she found her way to one wildlife sanctuary for immediate care and then, another for continued help. She had been somehow injured and unable to return to a wild life. 

Before long, the owl, now called Maya,  was world-famous, having been photographed by a  New York City photographer on assignment in Florida, and having appeared in an Austrailian based website about owls.

Maya’s  story (with a mis-identified photo of another fine owl, Red, my apologies!) is told in Florida’s Famous Animals, a new book of stories of human interaction with 13 real animals that lived in Florida. 

It is hoped that this group of animal tales (& tails) will inspire students to think about careers in working with animals. 

For more info on Maya’s caretakers

www.stfranciswildlife.org 

for a tribute to Red, found as a baby with an injured wing and taken care of for 14 years until his death in 2006, see the 5th page at

http://www.stfranciswildlife.org/Wildlife.Matters.Fall2006.pdf 

Other owl info

 www.owlpages.com 

www.cfbw.com   www.nature.org/initiatives/programs/birds/features

 ~ This blog gives a hoot~

About Animals 6

A HIPPO in Our TIME

 Each year on the Central West Coast of FLORIDA, a hippo born at the San Diego Zoo that has lived in Florida since 1966, receives extra visitors at a birthday bash. 

If you watched TV in the 1960s you may have seen Daktari. On that show you may have seen a hippo, an actor in the Ivan Tors  animal acting troupe.  Recently at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, visitors, children from Homosassa Springs Elementary School and hippo fans celebrated this same hippo’s 48th birthday.  The children call him Lu.  http://chronicleonline.com/

At the morning event Lu ate the first “cake,” bread baked in the peninsular shape & iced in red, white and blue. At the afternoon party, Lu declined the bread but took melon from park volunteer Vicky Iozzia, who is producing a children’s picture book about Lu, who she has observed during her 17 years of volunteer work at the park. 

The park takes responsiblity for Lu, who as a baby was taken from his mother hippo, Lotus, to work as an actor. Exotic animals often make cute appearances in a TV commercial or a series or a movie.  Lu mugged memorably in a commercial for a tire company. But fast forward 10, 15, or 20 years. What happens to animal actors when they are too told to perform? Who cares for them then?

***

This blog has produced a new book, Florida’s Famous Animals, which lists some animal retirement sites in Florida,  such as a non-profit, closed-to-the-public site, that shelters some former orangutan and chimpanzee actors, along with casts-offs from private ownership. It is the Center for Great Apes. www.prime-apes.org

Florida’s Famous Animals also features comments from fans of Lu, a black and white glamour shot of him, and his life story told in a chapter, “Lu, Town Hippo.”  www.globepequot.com

***

In 1850, the first hippo thought to be seen outside of Africa was visited by up to 10,000 of the curious daily, at the London Zoo. It arrived there as a trade from Egypt,  in an exchange for British hunting dogs. Named Obaysch for the island from which it was taken, the London hippo died in 1878.

***

Male hippos in captivity can live to 61, as was the story for Tanga of the Munich Zoo, who died in 1995. So Lu, Town Hippo of Homosassa, has perhaps a decade of birthday hoopla on the horizon.

***

For conservation information about the 125,000 to 150,000 remaining hippos in Africa look to www.savethehippo.com

Other hippo conservation news is at the site that tells the tale of Owen and Mzee, hipppo and tortoise who became friends after the 2004 tsunami made hippo Owen an orphan. www.lafargeecosystem.com

And for conservation advocacy about many exotic animals look to The World Wildlife Fund. www.wwf.org

To meet fans of hippos the world over, connect with www.hippos.com website of the Hippolotofus group, a traveling club of hippo lovers who convene to celebrate and collect all things hippo.

** 

This blog slautes those who care about and care for exotic animals in retirement ~ you saw this kicker coming didn’t you ~ so

hip hippo hurray~

About Animals

Cell Phones for Canines & Cats     

 Jon Mooallem writes in The New York Times Sunday Magazine (1.13.2008) about many things cell phone, including info on how animal groups can benefit from our olde cells.

Groups that receive a donation from a business called Collective Good for these used cell phones include the Humane Society of the United States. The site with turn-in info & directions for selecting an animal group & printing the prepaid envelope is www.collectivegood.com

I found animal groups in Texas, Florida, Colorado, New Jersey, California & other places listed at the site.  When Collective Good receives the phones, it retools them for resale, or extracts metal from them if they can’t be repaired for reuse. A part of that value is what is collected for various causes, including animal rights.  

The NYT magazine’s Mooallem (hope the author likes bovines, eh?) wrote that Collective Good owner Seth Heine receives 20,000 old cell phones a month.   So penny by penny, it can add up.  The name fits, Collective Good.

You may want to follow Mooallem’s byline. He’s written entertainingly & informatively for The Times Magazine about dog breeding (2.4.2007).

About Animals

How FLORIDA’s FAMOUS ANIMALS originated.

On Florida’s lower west coast in Bradenton in 1966 my family & I met a manatee.

Today this same manatee is still living in Bradenton. He is known as Snooty.

I never forgot his story.

And his story, from baby reportedly born in captivity to his work in educating schoolchildren & helping visiting sick & injured manatees in need of rehabilitation,is noteworthy.

Visit Snooty at the Parker Manatee Aquarium www.southfloridamuseum.org

in Bradenton.