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

4.7 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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 - 3
  • 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: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 20, 2011
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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love the Japanese Haiku poems because there are so many creative ways you can write this poetic form. This delightful 32 page hardcover book (Won Ton: A cat tale told in haiku by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin) is a perfect example. As a cat and dog lover (I have had both cats and dogs and I still share my home with two cats) I could not pass up this obviously child’s book, which I picked up at a bargain price on Amazon.

This story begins in a cat shelter where a little boy picks out a homeless cat to take home. As mentioned before, this story is told in the haiku poetic form and it is the cat who is narrating the story. Even though they name the cat “Won Ton” we find out at the end the real name of this smart cat, which I will not reveal at this time and spoil the story for the reader.

Even though this book is aimed at young children; nevertheless, I suspect all cat lovers will also enjoy reading this wonderful book. The illustrations are in full color making this book a pure delight to read.

Rating: 4 Stars. Joseph J. Truncale (Author: Haiku Moments: How to read, write and enjoy haiku)
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