PPBF: Finding Messi

Happy PPBF. Meet Pretty Girl; she's up for adoption, but until she finds her furever home, we get the joy of helping take care of her. Doesn't she look purrrfectly pristine, so cute and cuddly in my husband's arms?

Now meet Messi, then imagine losing this fancy feline.
Authors: Trevor Ostfeld, Iryna Chernyak
Illustrator: Katherine Blackmore
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Birth date: April 16, 2024
Suitable for: ages 6-10
Themes: pets, loss, empathy
Brief synopsis: When Messi goes missing, will Iryna ever find her feline friend in the war-torn mess?
Opening page: Have you ever met a cat that plays soccer?
Introducing Messi - the dribbling, passing, goal-scoring cat!
Check out the book's website {here}.
Tune in for the book's backstory from Trevor:

Read the Press Release from the Publisher: (New York, New York – March 21, 2024) Trevor Ostfeld, a high school student in New York City and a resident of New Jersey, co-authored a children's book, Finding Messi: The Miracle Cat From Kyiv, with Iryna Chernyak after volunteering for a humanitarian mission in March 2022 when the war in Ukraine began.

Trevor, now 17 years old, chose to skip his family Spring Break in Florida in March of 2022 and instead traveled with his father and other volunteers from their synagogue to Poland and Ukraine. The group from Temple Emanu-El carried over 9,000 pounds of humanitarian supplies to help women and children who were fleeing from war and distributed them at the Poland-Ukraine border. Together they brought over 4,000 diapers and other personal essentials to aid the impacted families.


Finding Messi: The Miracle Cat From Kyiv tells the true story of 13-year old Iryna and her cat, Messi. When Ukraine was attacked, Iryna and her mother had to abruptly leave everything behind in Kyiv, including their beloved pet. Messi goes missing, and Iryna rallies the community to help her find her cat. The book gently explains the impact of war on families, and young readers will better understand the experiences of children displaced by war.

Trevor Ostfeld shared, “Part of what I realized in Poland and Ukraine is that kids are just kids, even when they are escaping their homes. I will never forget seeing everyone crossing the border out of Ukraine.”

After coming back home from his humanitarian mission in Poland and Ukraine, Trevor couldn't stop thinking about Iryna's story about Messi the cat. Her dramatic story inspired him to write a children's book. Trevor wanted to help kids better understand what it's like to grow up in a war crisis and to teach them how to empathize with those who are experiencing it. 

Why I like this book:

First of all, it's totally relatable; who among us hasn't lost something so precious? Then, it's written by two teens to bring awareness to what children around the world are enduring. Finally, all proceeds from this book will be donated to charities that support victims of the Ukraine War to help to make a positive impact and provide aid to those in need.

Empathy. Compassion. Kindness.


It takes me back almost two decades when we heard that some children in the Ukraine didn't have the luxury of clean underwear. Wait, what? Yep, you read the right. Like clean undies are a luxury. So we hosted an Undy 500 service project to study the people and needs in that area. We reached out to the local Rotary Club to ask them to partner with us and pay the postage, then we collected underwear. Lots and lots of it. We made a human racetrack on our soccer field to unite as a community and help our students understand and imagine the enormous impact of their donations and love.

The good news is that we can elevate empathy and help our children become global leaders and humanitarians by hearing about and researching real-world events like the story that Trevor tells. 

Which part of our wonderful yet struggling world might need your help? 

Check out this poignant tale, and expect it to leave paw prints on your heart! Then head over to Susanna Hill's blog for her Not My Circus review and more PPBF picks. Happy springtime, dear reader.

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