Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku

Lee Wardlaw, Author, Eugene Yelchin, Illustrator
Lee Wardlaw, illus. by Eugene Yelchin, Holt, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8050-8995-0
Reviewed on: 12/06/2010
Release date: 02/01/2011
Wardlaw (101 Ways to Bug Your Parents) has a fine understanding of the feline mind, and each 17-syllable poem packs a big impact—especially in the first section, which imagines the emotional life of a cat in a shelter. "Visiting hours!/ Yawn. I pretend not to care./ Yet—I sneak a peek." Warily, Won Ton considers the boy who is his new owner—"Won Ton? How can I/ be soup? Some day, I'll tell you/ my real name. Maybe." In the final pages, boy and cat grow to trust each other, and Won Ton reveals his real name: "Boy, it's time you knew:/ My name is Haiku." Yelchin's (Seven Hungry Babies) sleek cat is all eyes and sharp angles. The Japanese haiku theme (technically, Wardlaw explains in a note, the poems are senryu, focusing on "the foibles of human nature") is carried through with elements and backgrounds lifted from old woodblock prints. The final page, a delicate painting of the boy nuzzling the cat, is a fitting reward for the boy's patience and Won Ton's resilience. A surprisingly powerful story in verse. Ages 4–8. (Feb.)
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