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Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons Hardcover – February 25, 2014

4.7 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

K-Gr 4—Muth, in his author's note, says "haiku is like an instant captured in words." Indeed, that is evident in 26 poems depicting images across four seasons, starting with fall. Muth's well-known panda, Koo, is depicted on a white background with just a touch of blue sky, looking up at swirling leaves: "Autumn/are you dreaming /of new clothes?" Koo, who begins alone, is soon joined by two children for the rest of the seasons. In the spring, birds alight on Koo, the girl, and on a branch held by the boy: "Quiet and still/long enough/for birds to make nests?" The color palette for the contemplative watercolors changes through the seasons, with a red-striped scarf and cardinal contrasting against the panda and the white snow. When a crown of snow falls on Koo he exclaims, "King!/my crown a gift/from a snowy branch." Muth's author's note also explains his variation from the traditional five-seven–five poetic form and invites readers to follow "an alphabetical path through the book by following the capitalized words in each haiku." While others haiku picture books include Andrew Clements's Dogku (S & S, 2007), Bob Raczka's Guyku (Houghton Harcourt, 2010), and Rita Gray's One Big Rain (Charlesbridge, 2010), no previous titles so cohesively capture the naturalistic spirit of Japanese haiku. Even readers who are not typically interested in poetry will be captivated by Muth's artistry in both words and images.—Julie R. Ranelli, Queen Anne's County Free Library, Stevensville, MD

From Booklist

First introduced in Zen Ties (2008) as Stillwater the panda’s nephew, Koo is alone in the narrative world of this verse collection, until a boy and girl from the neighborhood knock on his door. They share good times throughout the seasons, whether throwing snowballs, reading aloud to sparrows, or skipping stones. And sometimes Koo enjoys reflective moments alone, “becoming so quiet / Zero sound / only breath.” These very short poems, ranging from fresh to poignant to prosaic, are enhanced by the beautiful watercolor-and-ink illustrations on every page. Reflecting the brevity and imagery of the verse, the spare fall and winter pictures seem particularly fine, while their relative simplicity contrasts effectively with the profusion of color in the spring and summer scenes. Besides pointing out the subtle trail of alphabetically arranged capital letters in each poem throughout the book, the author’s note expresses Muth’s rationale for not restricting himself to “the five-seven-five syllable pattern that many of us grew up learning haiku must be.” Haiku or not, this collection is worth reading. Preschool-Grade 3. --Carolyn Phelan
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: NP (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; First Ed 1st Printing edition (February 25, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545166683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545166683
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 9.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


In 1999 Mr. Muth started what has been over a decade in children's books. He has received numerous awards and critical acclaim and worked with many talented people. He is the author and illustrator of "Zen Shorts" a Caldecott Honor book, which Kirkus Review described as "Every word and image comes to make as perfect a picture book as can be". He is the illustrator of the anthology, "A Family of Poems", with Caroline Kennedy. His book "The Three Questions" has been described as "quietly life-changing" by The New York Times.

Muth worked for over twenty years in comics and graphic novels; culminating in the industry's highest honor, an Eisner Award for "The Mystery Play".

In an interview with the Paris Review, E.B. White once said, "You don't write down for children. You write up." Muth wholeheartedly agrees. "Children are completely capable of intuiting wisdom as readily as adults are... they just may not have the ability to put it into words ... [but] they get this stuff very quickly. Even the kids who come to the book (Zen Shorts) because it has a giant panda tend to come back because there's some itch that's created -- in their minds or in their hearts -- to re-examine what's going on."

Mr. Muth has had a life long interest in Asian Studies, including tai chi chuan, sumi ink drawing and chado, "the way of tea". His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages and he lives with his wife Bonnie and their four children in New York.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have a colleague who is mighty careful when it comes to haiku. She’s Japanese-American herself, and one thing she simply cannot stand is when someone takes a set of words, slaps them into five/seven/five syllable lines, and then calls the result “a haiku”. Traditional haiku focuses on nature and how we, as humans, relate to it. So what happens when 5/7/5 gets taken out of the equation entirely? Author/illustrator Jon J. Muth is no stranger to children’s picture books that challenge the reader. And though he’s written many a book touching on the concept of “Zen”, straight up poetry has rarely been his bag. All that changes with the publication of Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons. Gutsy in its quiet, contemplative way, Muth doesn’t follow the same old, same old poetry model. Maybe that’s part of the reason I like it so very much.

Twenty-six haikus spotlight four different seasons. In the book, a panda cub named Koo and two human siblings explore fall, winter, spring and autumn in a myriad of different ways. From a snowball on a stop sign (“are we in trouble?”) to act of accidentally killing a bug (“afterward / feeling alone and Sad”) the haikus do double duty as both poems and, depending on which word is capitalized, a tour of the alphabet. Inspired by his own young twins, Muth, with seeming effortlessness, brings to young readers a fellow traveler.

Poetry is dead. I’m sorry. That sounds a bit bleak. Allow me to rephrase that sentence. Poetry for children is dead. Nope . . . nope that still sounds bleak, doesn’t it? Well it’s not true anyway . . . yet. But you see I’ve been watching the number of works of poetry published for kids the last few years and I swear that each season we get fewer and fewer and fewer. I believe a combination of different factors is to blame.
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My 4 year old loves this book. I am so glad I found it. We got it 4 days ago, and she has asked to read it at bed each night.

She finds the poems (and drawings) funny. I also have been surprised that after the first night of reading this, my daughter had some of the haiku in her memory.

I find the poems really capture the feelings with seasons well. The poems are short and really capture a "moment".

Also a cute feature, each haiku has one letter capitalized as you work through the alphabet. This is especially age appropriate for my daughter and a fun game for her to find the "big letter" ABC.
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This is like and unlike Jon Muth's previous books. There is not a solid story line to follow. There are instead 26 Haiku's written. It has been fun to go through this book with my 4 year old as she works on her alphabet but for my 8 and 10 year old who are used to more of a story and the Buddhist background he brings to those stories, it was a little disappointing. Great, fun pictures as always!!
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Format: Hardcover
I was so excited to see that Jon J Muth had put out another Panda book. My child (now almost 4) has loved the Stillwater books for years already; the paintings, the stories, the cadence. And to meet Koo before was a treat. A treat I thought would be revisited with this new Koo book. And of course, the paintings are just lovely, but I was disappointed in two things.

1) The voice isn't the same. The voice of Koo is ethereal, sweet, and frankly more poetic than it seems in the new book. The new book are just haiku's about the seasons. Okay, fine. But I am sad because I was so looking forward to that voice.

2) I hate to be nitpicky, but here are these gorgeous watercolors with a very disarming font for the haiku's. It takes away a bit of the beauty otherwise left.

I will probably eventually buy it, but I practically ran to the store when I heard it was here locally and found myself putting it back on the shelf in search for a better connection.
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I am a sucker for Muth's illustrations but often have trouble making his stories connect to my preschool class with our Western world mentality. His books are beautiful in words and illustrations and this one is no exception. The imagery through the poems is spot on and so relatable to everyone making it a perfect read for preschoolers and older. This opened up some wonderful discussions about seasons, what we feel, smell and see. Love it.
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Format: Hardcover
Hi, Koo! is actually written in Haiku which I am sure will be way over your young reader’s understanding, but for the adult, it is a fun way to reintroduce this form of poetry.

Haiku traditionally is made up of seventeen sounds, but English syllables and Japanese “on” are not the same. Since traditions change, sounds are not strictly adhered to and this book takes on the more non-traditional English version of the five-seven-five syllable pattern.

In this book, Koo, an adorable panda, takes the reader through the seasons adding delight with each page and each new adventure.

Unlike traditional children’s books, there is not the comfortable rhythm that most books of the genre use. It will come across as choppy and you might lose your child’s attention, and if that is so, just use the beautiful illustrations and let your child tell you the story.
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