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Father of Lions: One Man's Remarkable Quest to Save the Mosul Zoo

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  568 ratings  ·  147 reviews
Father of Lions is the powerful true story of the evacuation of the Mosul Zoo, featuring Abu Laith the zookeeper, Simba the lion cub, Lula the bear, and countless others, faithfully depicted by acclaimed, award-winning journalist Louise Callaghan in her trade publishing debut.

Combining a true-to-life narrative of humanity in the wake of war with the heartstring-tugging acc
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published January 14th 2020 by Forge (first published September 5th 2019)
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Diane S ☔
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
What an absolutely incredible story. A true story full of heart, living under ISiS, war, hope andd those who care, even putting themselves in danger for a few helpless animals.

Mosul was once a vibrant city, s city of families, where a young girl could play hop scotch in front of her house. All this changes when ISIS arrives. Soon many are thrown out of their houses, others hide in their houses, and public execution become a daily event. What food there is available is expensive and many do not
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When something tragic happens, are you one of those people who worries about the animals? I definitely am. Like when ISIS occupied Mosul, a zoo needed to be evacuated. That’s the true story at the heart of Father of Lions.

ISIS arrives in beautiful, once thriving, Mosul. All at once, most everything is lost, especially safety.

Abu Laith bottlefed Zombie as a young lion cub and has other animals in his care. He is also “wanted,” and there are limits to what he can do on top of the general threats o
The title, Father of Lions: The Remarkable True Story of the Mosul Zoo Rescue, informs a prospective reader that the book’s central topic is the rescue of animals from a zoo in Mosul. What it does not tell you is that it is as much about the rescue of the animals as it is about the terrible two-and-a-half-year-long ISIS occupation of the city Mosul in Iraq. View this as a word of warning. This is not simply a heart-warming tale about animals. Neither is it made clear that in fact only two animal ...more
FATHER OF LIONS takes place in Mosul, Iraq after 2 and a half years of ISIS occupation and fighting. At the Mosul zoo, the animals are starving and dying, as are the people. Abu Laith is an animal lover and tries his best to protect and care for the animals. Word gets to Austria to an animal charity which rescues animal. I loved everything about this book. It helped me understand life in Iraq at this time. I loved the cooperation of so many diverse people to save the animals. I believe this is a ...more
Cathrine ☯️
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popsugar2020, arc
5 🦁 🦁 🦁 🦁 🦁
What an amazing story! It reads like fiction as it transports you to war torn Iraq.
As ISIS moves in and overtakes Mosul, the reader is right in the thick of it. I come away with better understanding and empathy for those whose lives were so destroyed, losing almost everything to death, violence, and despair. Much sadness here but surprisingly, humor also.
Abu Laith, what a character. I would love to meet him, and Dr. Amir, my kind of humans.

"The soldiers walked into the zoo. The comman
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A great book makes me feel like I am living in the story. This book did just that!
News Journalist and Author Louise Callaghan gives us a retelling of actual events from the perspective of several inhabitants of Mosul during the city's occupation by ISIS. To read about their daily nightmares to stay alive was intensely sad, horrific, yet educational and necessary.
Amid the chaos one man, Abu Laith, does his best to care for and protect the animals of the Mosul Zoo, much to his wife's chagrin. As c
Athena (OneReadingNurse)
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thank you so much to Bookish First and Forge books for my advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!

Well shit, that put me into a book coma.

I put the post script down and looked some of the people up on Facebook, and seeing that three year gap in their posts just made this book so, so incredibly real. Seriously you can look up Hakam's band on youtube! I am not sure where the videos were filmed, hopefully Mosul, and they're pretty talented

Alright anyway - based on true people and events duri
Cindy Burnett
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Father of Lions tells the tale of the ISIS occupation of Mosul, Iraq, in the mid-2010s through the lens of Abu Laith (known as the “Father of Lions”) and his attachment to certain animals from the Mosul Zoo. While the story related to the lions and other animals is interesting, I found the descriptions and details of Mosul’s ISIS occupation and its residents various responses to the occupation to be the most fascinating and compelling portions of the book.

To say war is terrible is stating the o
Diane Yannick
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I reviewed this ARC for Book Browse. Its publication date is January 2020. Louise Callaghan, the author, spent a huge chunk of time researching and writing this true account of the Mosul zoo. This reader, for one, is very grateful. The backdrop is Iraq during the reign of Isis. I have a much better understanding of what this occupation was like after reading this book. The hunger, the attacks, the inhumanity all became real. Abu Laith, the father of the lions, was one of the most unique characte ...more
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookish
Ordinary people in extraordinary times can accomplish the heroic.

Father of Lions: One Man's Remarkable Quest to Save the Mosul Zoo by Louise Callaghan tells the story of the people who worked to save the Mosul Zoo animals under unimaginable circumstances. The privations of wartime, the societal and political shifts under ISIS, and the extraordinary measures taken to extract the animals are vividly rendered.

Abu Laith loved animals. As a boy, he brought home two dogs who became his constant comp
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Wavering between 3 to 4 stars. This was, indeed, an incredible true story, learning about the horrendous circumstances of life in Mosul during ISIS occupation, and how the fighting affected the animals at the local zoo, as well as the people that had to live through it. The end of the book was especially exciting as we find out about the zoo animals, who had suffered during war time activities, and what happens to them after ISIS was driven out. The extent to which a small group of people tried ...more
Dec 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
By the time he was eighteen, Imad had discovered an immutable fact: animals were better than people.

The war was at his door, the ISIS waited to behead him, and he was cooped up in his house along with his wife, and a lot of children. And none of those predicaments perturbed Abu Laith (Imad). What made him despondent was the inhuman condition of his Zombie (a lion cub), Mother (a lioness), Father (a lion), Lula (a bear), a bear cub, and many other animals who were stranded in Mosul Zoo during the
Zubs Malik
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it

I have read so many books about ISIS occupation, war and terror. The harm and danger to life is still very real in the middle east as I type these words. Homes destroyed; families torn apart – so so much blood shed. But what ISIS/Taliban didn’t break and will never break is the resilience and HEART of the people of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Afghanistan.

Stories of Abu Laith (father of lions) and many like him, brave and courageous souls will not be destroyed, and I thank the author f
When a country is at war, it is not only human lives that are at risk, so too are the fates of animals in captivity, as are objects of historical and cultural significance, all of which cannot easily or quickly be spirited away to safety. Throughout history, it is not uncommon for combatants (be it the occupiers or the resistance) to transform zoos into military bases. I suppose the rationale is that the locale provides a more innocuous cover for covert activities, and thereby, a little less lik ...more
Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was very informative and inspiring. It did a wonderful job showing readers the reality of living in a war zone. I was shocked by so much of the information presented in the book, and I actually ended up doing some additional research on the war in Iraq, as well as ISIS. My goal this year is read more books outside of my comfort zone, books that will help me learn about important issues. My only problem with this book is that it did get fairly repetitive. Overall, great read, especially ...more
Mar 18, 2020 rated it liked it
When Isis militants drive off the Iraqi military and take over Mosul life changes in an instant. No longer are the zoo animals the only ones living in cages. Soon women are forced to cover themselves from head to toe and a beard trim can cost a man his life. Amidst the chaos is Abu Laith, self appointed zookeeper and lover of animals, who is determined to see his both his human and fur family through the war, no matter the cost.
Karen Decatur
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Truly enjoyed this book! I like her writing style. Not my normal genre, but will read more by Louise Callaghan
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is much more than a book about a zookeeper and his animals. Callaghan writes of the occupation of Mosul by Daesh, the new laws invoked that make daily life very difficult for the citizens of Mosul, the threat of constant attacks, the fear of leaving their homes in order to escape the notice of the jihadis, Iraqi history and culture.

As the fighting between the government forces and militants intensifies in Mosul, the animals in the zoo are starving. The lives of the Mosul residents are
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Living under ISIS occupation for 2 to 3 years was a living hell for citizens of Mosul, Iraq. Almost all of the animals died from slow starvation in the city zoo. Father of Lions details the suspense and suffering of people and animals quite remarkably. I am so fortunate to live in a country where freedom is top notch. It’s hard to believe this is Louise Callaghan’s debut book. It’s an excellent idea to list all of the people at the beginning of the book along with a brief explanation of their ro ...more
Apr 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This story depicts the dangers of life under ISIS for both humans and animals. Engaging and heartbreaking at times.
Nicole Wagner
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received this book as a free advance reader copy from the publisher, and as usual when starting a new ARC, I didn't know what to expect.

This book started out pretty slowly, introducing us to two Iraqi families and chronicling the takeover of ISIS. Far from being a journalistic commentary on Middle Eastern relations, though, the actions of ISIS are depicted as gradually moving from tiresome, to ridiculous, to outrageous, to baffling, to terrifying. Everyone does their level best to keep life as
Ira Therebel
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I usually agree with Abu Laith that animals are better than people. But then people like him and Dr. Amir come and show that humans can be just as great as animals.

Most of the book doesn't tell much about the zoo and the animals. We are told about the ISIS occupied city Mosul in Iraq. This is where Abu Laith lives and this is where the zoo he cares so much about is located. We get to read about them struggling through 2+ years of occupation. What their daily life was and the dangers they were fa
Nov 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, giveaway
I was fortunate to be randomly selected by Forge Publishers for an ARC. I debated between a three or four stars ratings for this very readable book but opted for the three. Just my personal opinion but I believe the editor needed to work with the author on shortening the back story of Abu Laith as it did not add to the book. The people of Mosul are courageous and I can't begin to imagine how they managed their daily lives. I appreciated the postscript so we were not left hanging as to what has h ...more
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
True story: picked this up because of the cover + title. The story I found on the pages inside? Wow. Just wow ... the fact that it's true made it that much more powerful.
This is recent history - I remember the invasion of Mosul - but reading about it through the perspective of a handful of people who lived through it? Incredible. While the focus is on the animals, the Mosul Zoo, it's also on the resilience and sheer dogged determination to survive of the citizens. The challenges (and dangers
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What would you do in the middle of a war? Louise Callaghan, a Middle East journalist, researched and wrote this true story of Abu Laith who is responsible for a lion, a bear, his huge family and how they live in Mosul during the time that ISIS comes in and takes over.
All Abu knows about animals has been learned by watching National Geographic.

I lost count how many children he has. He was a widower and he married a widow. Both had children and they have children together. Callaghan’s description
Alysa Morley
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm not surprised that I liked this, as someone who loves animals. Nonfiction stories about animals are undoubtedly my favorite way to work in more nonfiction, and this one has a nice balance of narrative to break up the series stuff and add depth and complexity to the characters and story.

This story just has a lot of heart. I love animals, wildlife, nature, and basically anything of that sort, so it was really appealing to me to read about other people who loved animals, advocated for them, an
Dec 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well, this was a treat of a non-fiction book. Honestly not at all what I was expecting. When I read that this story was set during the Isis occupation of Mosul, I thought it would be pretty dreary. But the author does a great job of focusing on characters (note: real people), rather than the occupation, although she does describe some pretty harrowing events, and I can't imagine living with that amount of stress for years. However the rich characters provide a wonderful focus, and the story is m ...more
Dec 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent true story of a family and a team of strangers that fight to save the animals of a neglected zoo in Mosul. An informative and dramatic look at Mosul civilians that face danger all around them due to an on-going war just outside their front doors, and facing starvation, cruelty, and violence from the occupying soldiers of the Iraq Army then Daesh and Isis. With much sacrifice and unwavering dedication, Abu Laith (Imad Sabah) gave everything he had and more to care for the animals of ...more
Paul C. Stalder
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
A poignant reminder of the human side of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, as well as the suffering humanity inflicts on the species we share this planet with. Although the title focuses on the zoo, the characters are at the heart of this tale; strong individuals who stand up to the powers that be. Resilience is found on each page. Well-told. Well-received.
Edward Sullivan
A remarkable true story centering on an inspiring, larger-than-life character determined to save the animals during the two and one half year ISIS occupation of Mosul.
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Bookish First Rea...: Father of Lions by Louise Callaghan 4 6 Nov 16, 2019 03:49PM  

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