Won Ton by Lee Wardlaw

won-tonCindy: If you didn’t get enough haiku with our recent post about Guyku, then have we got a treat for you in Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku (Henry Holt 2011). The story opens with cats in separate cages in an animal shelter:

Gypsy on my left.

Pumpkin, my right. Together,

we are all alone.

The Siamese cat, our narrator, feigns indifference to the pet shopping folks, but how can he not hope? Once selected there is the terrifying car ride home and then the naming. Bubba? For an Oriental prince? Be serious. Won Ton? Named after soup? Good grief. There are many adjustments to be made as a new member of the house settles in and illustrator Eugene Yelchin appears as familiar with feline antics as author Wardlaw. This is a literary cat  that can be believed in whether exhibiting indifference or indignance. Wardlaw explains that the poems are really “senryu” a Japanese form that employs the same three-line, 17-syllable, moment-in-time elements of “haiku.” In senryu, though, instead of focusing on nature, the lens is dialed in on human nature or relationships, in this case, that of a cat’s nature. The creative duo is completely successful, I mean, “what part of ‘meow’ don’t you understand?”

Lynn:  Many felines have deigned to grace our house over the years and we are currently owned by a manic but extremely affectionate pair of litter mates.  So the focus group and I were attracted immediately to this book but we have high standards about cat books.  I am very pleased to say that the most particular of readers will be totally satisfied by the utter “catness” that Wardlaw and Yelchin have achieved.  There’s a really delightful story here too, wonderfully crafted poems and illustrations that are comic but also convey the very essence of cat nature.  My favorite poem is:



Wait – let me back in!

The boys’ favorite is:

Sorry about the

squishy in your shoe.  Must’ve

been something I ate.

I love finding picture books that can be used to demonstrate topics with older students as so often the picture books are clear, direct and short to read.  Won Ton is a perfect book to use to demonstrate these poetic forms to students of all ages.  Put this on a visual presenter and read this one and students will be grabbed by the fun and the form.  Ask them to try their hand at creating a senryu about an animal or human in their lives.

nonfiction_mondayCheck out other nonfiction books for this week’s Nonfiction Monday at Chapter Book of the Day.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

4 Comments on "Won Ton by Lee Wardlaw"

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  1. Loved this book. The art and text are a wonderful combination. Actually teared up a bit at the end, but then I’m a sucker for animal books.

  2. edspicer@mac.com' Ed Spicer says:

    I was just going to email you to ask whether or not you had seen this book! I loved it. Can’t wait to share with my first graders. Guyku is a March is Reading month, all school selection; this one would have joined it had I seen it earlier.

  3. author@leewardlaw.com' Lee Wardlaw says:

    Me-wow! I am honored. Thanks so much for the purrfect review. When my son was 8, our beloved Snowshoe Siamese died of cancer. So we interviewed kittens at our local shelter, and brought home ‘Mai Tai’. Won Ton’s tale is really the story of the growing friendship between Mai Tai and my son, who is now almost 15. They are still buddies and sleep together every night…along with our two other shelter kitties. Best fishes, Ms. Lee Wardlaw

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