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Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku Hardcover – February 15, 2011

32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Product Description

Nice place they got here.

Bed. Bowl. Blankie. Just like home!

Or so I've been told.


Visiting hours!

Yawn. I pretend not to care.

Yet -- I sneak a peek.


So begins this beguiling tale of a wary shelter cat and the boy who takes him home.

Sometimes funny, sometimes touching, this adoption story, told entirely in haiku, is unforgettable.

A Look Inside Won Ton
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From School Library Journal

Gr 2-5-Text and illustrations work together to craft an unforgettable character in a shelter cat whose veneer of cynical toughness masks his vulnerability. As he gazes from behind the bars of his cage, he quips: "Nice place they got here./Bed. Bowl. Blankie. Just like home!/Or so I've been told." He's adopted by a boy and his family, driven home ("letmeoutletme/outletmeoutletmeout./Wait-let me back in!"); and given a name: "Won Ton? How can I/be soup? Some day, I'll tell you/my real name. Maybe." Yelchin's superb illustrations, graphite and gouache on watercolor paper, depict an angular blue-black-haired Siamese, capturing all facets of his singular, feisty, and playful personality. Wardlaw relates his tale using a series of senryu, three unrhymed lines similar to haiku; in a note, he explains that the form focuses on "the foibles of human nature-or in this case, cat nature." The book's overall design, with text laid carefully between and around eye-catching, brilliantly composed illustrations, complements the engaging tale. Won Ton's sweetly humorous story will steal the hearts of readers young and old.-Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool and up
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (February 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805089950
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805089950
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 0.3 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lee Wardlaw swears that her first spoken word was 'kitty'. Since then, she's shared her life with close to 30 cats (not all at the same time!) and published close to 30 books for children, tweens and teens, selling more than one million copies world-wide.

Lee's newest books include: WON TON - A CAT TALE TOLD IN HAIKU (Holt, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin), recipient of the 2012 Lee Bennett Hopkins Children's Poetry Award and the 2012 Myra Cohn Livingston Children's Poetry Award, among others; RED, WHITE AND BOOM! (Holt, illustrated by Huy Voun Lee), a CCBC Best Books of the Year and a Parents' Choice Award "Recommended" Book; and 101 WAYS TO BUG YOUR FRIENDS AND ENEMIES (Penguin), winner of the Forward National Literature Award for Humor.

Lee grew up in Santa Barbara, CA, where she attended Cold Spring Elementary, Santa Barbara Junior High and Santa Barbara High school. She graduated with honors from Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, with a degree in education, and taught elementary school for five years before deciding to write full-time. Lee earned her AMI Primary Diploma from the Montessori Institute of San Diego, and will receive her M.Ed. from Loyola University, Maryland, in 2014. She has 30+ years experience presenting lively and interactive writing programs in grades K through 8th. Since 1988, she has also taught a variety of workshops and classes for educators, librarians, parents and aspiring writers.

Lee's books have been honored by the American Library Association, the International Reading Association, the Children's Book Council, the National Council of the Social Studies, the National Council of Teachers of English, Bank Street College of Education, the International School Librarians Association, and more. She is an active member of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators, and belongs to the Author's Guild, the California Reading Association, the Children's Literature Council of Southern California, the North American Montessori Teachers Association, Association Montessori Internationale and, yes, even the Cat Writers' Association.

Lee lives in Santa Barbara, CA, with her husband, teenage son, and three former cats.

To learn more about Lee and her books, visit:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A substitute teacher came up to my reference desk seeking, "Fun haiku books" to turn into lesson plans with their kids. That's the sort of open-ended question that can render your brain blank for a moment or two. Suddenly every haiku book for kids you've ever encountered flees from your brain. You're left gaping like a fish, desperately scanning your poetry shelves for one, just ONE, haiku book that will help. Then, if you're really in trouble, you start thinking of books that are so new to your library system that it's no good to remember them anyway. For instance, the last time this happened I found myself thinking of Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku. A spirited little story that couldn't be simpler, the first person narrative of a feline in a new home is told entirely in haikus. With plenty of things to love for poetry and cat lovers alike, Won Ton takes an old form and renders it furry.

Split into little unnumbered chapters ("The Shelter", "The Choosing", etc.) we hear the tale of a cat named Won Ton (though that's not his "read" name, mind). A shelter kitty, Won Ton is adopted by a nice boy and goes off to start a new life. For a cat there are plenty of things to explore and figure out. There's the couch that makes for an excellent scratching post and the moths that make for "a dusty snack". In the end, Won Ton makes it clear that he's not his boy's cat. The boy is his boy. And finally, " `Good night, Won Ton,' you / whisper. Boy it's time you knew: / My name is Haiku."

It's interesting that right off the bat the Author's Note makes it clear that the book isn't told in haiku at all but rather senryu. Actually, I'm being facetious. Senryu, which focuses on "the foibles of human nature - or in this case, cat nature" appears to have been developed from haiku itself.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Madigan McGillicuddy on April 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This sassy collection of narrative poems tell the story of Won Ton, a shelter cat taken in by a young boy. Technically, the poems are not haiku, but, as Wardlaw explains in the author's note, senryu, identical to the haiku form, with a three line 5-7-5 syllable format, but instead "the foibles of human nature -or in this case, cat nature- are the focus, expressed by a narrator in a humorous, playful or ironic way."

The difference between haiku and senryu is immediately apparent. Rather than conjuring a soothing, reflective, meditative mood common to haiku, these poems are irreverent, funny and witty. Wardlaw perfectly captures the essence of Won Ton's catlike nature. I had initially assumed that Yelchin's illustrations (with clean lines that punctuate the text nicely) were digitally-enhanced, but they were created old-school, with graphite and gouche on watercolor paper. Won Ton is depicted as a lean, black cat with wide blue eyes and an expressive range of emotions.

Each poem is such a short little gem, it's hard not to quote the whole book, but I have a few that I must mention. On being in the shelter, Won Ton says, "Gypsy on my left/Pumpkin, on my right. Together/we are all alone." Woefully bored cats stare out of cages, while Won Ton sits with his back turned, paws tucked in. Just after being chosen, Won Ton says, "Latch squeaks. Door swings wide./Free! Free at last! Yet, one claw/snags, clings to what's known." Oh my gosh. Who hasn't felt like that at least once in their lifetime? Here's another of my favorites, after Won Ton has finally started to settle in to his new home. "Your tummy, soft as/warm dough. I knead and knead, then/bake it with a nap." What great imagery!

Yes, this original and enjoyable book will receive plenty of attention in April, National Poetry Month, but it's too good to enjoy only one month of the year. I'll recommend this book for cat-lovers everywhere, year-round.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amy Shojai, CABC on February 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This large format, color illustrated book supposedly is for kids. Sure, kids will love the gorgeous pictures, and enjoy the read-aloud text. But adult cat lovers will fight over this book--good luck getting it away from parents to give to the children! Lee has captured the essence of cat-liness in delightful verse, and the gorgeous evocative paintings match the story with clever, humorous, and touching illustrations.

It's clear that Lee (author) and Eugene (illustrator) know cats, know shelters, and know cat lovers. This book will surely help youngsters grasp an important appreciation for kitties. Shelters and cat lovers alike will embrace the book. Won Ton (aka "Haiku") is a purr-fect litter-ary feline ambassador. Bravo!

--Amy Shojai, CABC, author of 23 pet care books and founder/past president of the Cat Writers Association.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By SK79 on May 30, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is very clever and original, written entirely in senryu (similar to haiku). I used this in my 3rd grade classroom and had students do extensions where they wrote senryu verses from the boy's point of view.
I am very impressed with what the author was able to do in this format and how he was able to give emotion to the cat's story without being limited by the 5-7-5 syllable pattern. Bravo!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eliza S. Damone on June 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As the winner of this year's Maine Chickadee Book Award I recommend this book to animal lovers and literature lovers alike.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joan Becker on May 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We have a cat named "Wonton" so when I heard about this book from someone at a pet shop, I couldn't wait to find it. Of course I checked Amazon first and there it was. Price was good too! My granddaugther loved it!!
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