Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku


Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

This picture book is told in a series of haiku poems.  The poems form the only text in the book, charmingly telling the tale of Won Ton, a cat saved from the animal shelter by a boy and his family.  Once rescued, Won Ton demonstrates that he is pure cat.  His aloof yet cozy manner is captured to perfection here in the poems.  The book is in turns touching, beautiful, wistful and very funny.

Wardlaw’s haiku read as if they were effortlessly written.  In a few words and syllables, he captures the life of a cat and the humor of life.  It is a book that celebrates poetry, making it approachable and understandable for children.  At the same time, he speaks to the power and connection in animal adoption. 

Yelchin has illustrated the book with a playful flair.  The graphite and gouache illustrations are bright and large, making them well suited to sharing with a group.  Anyone with a cat in their lives will recognize the poses, the reactions and the attitude that Won Ton displays.

A perfect book to share in a poetry unit, this book is appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Company.

Also reviewed by Fuse #8 and Wild Geese Guides.

Five Flavors of Dumb: It Rocks

5 Flavors of Dumb

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Winner of the 2011 Schneider Family Teen Book Award

High-school senior, Piper has been invisible in her school for years.  Until one day, she gets herself a lot of attention for cheering for a band.  Not that unusual?  Well it is for Piper, because she’s deaf.  And now her mouth has gotten her involved with the band as its manager.  Now the girl who can’t hear the music has to figure out how to get the band ironically named Dumb paying gigs.  And she has to do it in a month.  Piper is tired of being invisible to her classmates and her family, so being a band manager comes at exactly the right time for her.  It will take her getting to know the members of the band, understanding a lot more about herself, and learning to feel the music before she can discover her inner rock and roll. 

John has written a book with protagonist who has a disability but does not let it dictate her life.  Piper is a great character who is filled with self-doubt but does not allow it to stop her from moving ahead.  She is at times jealous, manipulative, pushy and self centered, and it all makes her that much more human and relatable.  Throughout the book she is one amazing, powerful female character.  Nicely, the book also has other great girl characters of different types. 

This book just feels real.  John uses music and humor in the book to create a beat that moves the story forward.   Small touches make sure readers know they are in Seattle.  Piper’s entire family is vividly dysfunctional but equally believable and filled with love for one another, though they have problems showing it.  The growth of the characters, including Piper’s parents, has a natural feeling. 

Highly recommended, this is a great teen book that is certainly not dumb.  It just rocks.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.