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The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War, and Survival Hardcover – Illustrated, September 8, 2020

4.8 out of 5 stars 385 ratings

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From the Publisher

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up-Sabic-El-Rayess, a Bosnian Muslim teenage girl, was in danger when the Bosnian War (1992-95) made its way to her home city of Biha. Her memoir begins in 1992; the first chapter details her homecoming from Belgrade, Serbia. Her parents, who fiercely believed in the power of education, had sent their daughter away for school. Upon returning to Biha, Sabic-El-Rayess found that things had quickly changed. School was suspended, her Serbian friends disowned her before moving away, and bombings became a regular occurrence. Food was in short supply, and family and friends died. Yet there was one small constant source of hope: an ever-present cat that saved her family's life several times over the six years chronicled in the text. Moving chronologically, the climactic events follow the time line of the war. Sabic-El-Rayess's experience spotlights a significant historical event that may be unfamiliar to the target audience. She comprehensively addresses politics, genocide, rape camps, self-preservation, and, through it all, still being a teenager. Her prose balances verve and gentleness as she discusses the horrors of war alongside moments of levity, be it the cat or a love interest. The narrative is an innately human experience set against a backdrop of destruction and hatred. Her family's survival will pull readers into an emotional tale. VERDICT A hopeful story of a girl's survival and ultimate success. A must-read nonfiction addition to all libraries.-Alicia Abdul, Albany H.S., NYα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review

“Gripping. . . . Sabic-El-Rayess's visual imagination is a slipstream. Amra's words have a subtle, relentless force, creating a world where life is a danger, a demand, and a warm, calico presence.” ―Foreword Reviews (starred review)

“Boldly tackles the rawness of human emotion in times of severe distress. . . . Unforgettable.” ―
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“An excellent discussion starter.” ―
School Library Connection (starred review)

"Her prose balances verve and gentleness as she discusses the horrors of war alongside moments of levity. . . . A must-read nonfiction addition." -
School Library Journal (starred review)

"Exceptional. . . . The author has an extraordinary ability to recreate both the beauty and brutality of these years."
- Booklist (starred review)

"[A] memoir about the transformative power of love, connection, and education. . . . as timely as it is effective." -
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"This fast-paced, touching memoir reminds readers of the significance of the Balkan ethnic war, and places it into a larger conversation about the ways in which ethnically and religiously diverse societies are under threat from extremism and bigotry" -
The Horn Book Magazine

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Bloomsbury YA; Illustrated edition (September 8, 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 384 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1547604530
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1547604531
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 13 - 17 years
  • Grade level ‏ : ‎ 7 - 9
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.3 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.37 x 1.3 x 9.33 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.8 out of 5 stars 385 ratings

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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5
385 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on September 28, 2020
25 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States on October 19, 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars a MUST read non-fiction for all ages
Reviewed in the United States on October 19, 2020
This book is an incredible account of genocide that took place during the early 1990s in Bosnia.

Amra was 16 when the war started; while I was only 8 at the time, the events and experiences she documents closely parallel my own during the 1100+ day siege on our home town Bihać. Amra captures how quickly friends turned into enemies, allowing centuries long hatred and prejudice against the Muslim population to lead to the worst genocide on the European continent since WWII. On the first day of war, under heavy bombardment, I vividly remember asking my mom why the Serbs were bombing us. She said “it’s because you are Muslim.” Growing up in secular post-communist Yugoslavia, I didn’t even know what being a Muslim is, but here I was being killed for it.

Reading this book made me relive many of the events I witnessed first hand. Almost every day, someone I knew or our family knew would be killed. As Amra notes, a good day was when a family acquaintance died, and a bad day was when it was a close relative or a friend. I remember, after a while, you were just glad it wasn’t your nuclear family. To this day, following more than 3 years of no electricity or running water and being under constant bombardment and fear of sniper fire, the last day of war was the happiest day of my life.

During the war, I collected badges from various military units. This is a picture of The Cat I Never Named, surrounded by my collection of these badges.

In today’s context, Amra’s story serves as a cautionary tale on America’s own issues with racism and hate and how destructive this can be to a society. As my 6-year old daughter and I were laying these badges out for the picture, it was an opportunity to teach her about hate and about love, and how crucial is to never judge people by things they had no say in, whether it’s their place of birth, skin color, religion, sexual orientation, or any other reason.
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23 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States on November 2, 2020
11 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States on December 13, 2020
9 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States on December 22, 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars Modern day history
Reviewed in the United States on December 22, 2020
My daughter is enjoying reading this story with her daddy. It is helping her to see yet another perspective of the war he also survived. She is only on page 13 and said that she has already learned so much. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is an important part of my daughters' heritage. It is still unbelievable to me that a genocide was taking place in bosnia while I was a teenager in America. It is such a beautiful place with beautiful people.. I can't wait to read this myself! Bravo!
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8 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States on November 15, 2020
8 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

MISS
5.0 out of 5 stars The most moving and poignant book I have read in a long time
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 26, 2021
One person found this helpful
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Maisy
5.0 out of 5 stars A book I was unable to put down.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 26, 2021
One person found this helpful
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juliette anne harrison
5.0 out of 5 stars An enriching read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 7, 2021
One person found this helpful
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Shelle MD
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing story, with a good ending
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 17, 2021
AnaundAndreas
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read Book!!Heartwarming!
Reviewed in Germany on January 17, 2021
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AnaundAndreas
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read Book!!Heartwarming!
Reviewed in Germany on January 17, 2021
One of the best books i ever read. A heartwarming story about a Girl who survies the Bosnian War cause she found love and hope in a stray-kitty. This book should be published in all languages all over the World, so noone will ever forget what happened to Bosnian people in the War and what hate and racism can do. And on the other side show the power of love and hope , even in a cruel time like the Bosnian Genocide.
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2 people found this helpful
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