Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told In Haiku

Written by Lee Wardlaw {winner of the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for California/Hawaii!} and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin {winner of a 2012 Newbery Honor Award for Breaking Stalin’s Nose}

In other words, the people who created this book are no joke.

Lee Wardlaw tells a full and sweet tale of an adopted cat entirely in haiku. The language is sparse, yet rich. Each word of each haiku is perfectly placed which yields an expertly paced read, despite its unconventional storytelling.

In design, contrast highlights the differences in two items. Varying color, shape, or size, can call your attention to any one visual element due to its difference from another.

In Won-Ton: A Cat Tale Told In Haiku, most of the illustrated spreads contrast colors on either side of the gutter.

With so few words peppering each page, it would be easy to breeze through each page, not giving the words the attention they deserve. {Although this may not be true for every reader, but I confess this is a huge flaw in my reading: too fast, too furious.}

However, the contrasting colors cause your eye to slow down a bit, to hop from one side of the gutter to the other, and to really savor the book slowly. Contrast here helps to create a very strong and symmetrical sense of balance to each illustrated spread.

And of course, it just looks so much prettier that way. {That’s some serious art criticism right there, I know.} Haikus have so few words, but because each one packs such a tight little punch, it only makes sense that the illustrations carry on the same sense of oomph. {Again with the fancy art critic words…}

Read this haiku out loud. Seriously. Lee Wardlaw really knows how to whip her words into shape! Just as she says ‘mice snap‘ I love the way the sounds snap, the and the syllables sing. {And I seriously love the bright yellow cover that wraps around just a bit to abruptly meet the red dust jacket. Contrast. So cool.}


  • Posted July 24, 2012 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Carter – I love this book. Lee and Eugene will be at the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California’s Award Breakfast. Both are receiving awards (Won-Ton, Breaking Stalin’s Nose). I will send you information about the breakfast. Hope you can come.

  • Posted July 24, 2012 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    You are the best internet-turned-real-life-friend EVER!

  • Posted July 24, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    I just discovered your blog and I love it already! I´m an illustrator/animator myself and collector of children’s books, so I definitely agree on the “When picture books are framed by good design, my heart skips a beat”!

  • Posted July 24, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Hi Nadia!
    Thanks for stopping by! We definitely have overlapping interests…thank goodness there are more of us out there!

  • Posted July 24, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Purrs for your lovely analysis of my book! BTW, Won Ton won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for California/Hawaii, not the Golden Kite (which is a different award altogether.) It also received the 2011 Lee Bennett Hopkins Children’s Poetry Award, among many other honors. For a teacher’s guide for Won Ton, you may visit my website at http://www.leewardlaw.com. Just click on the Won Ton page to find it. Best fishes, Ms. Lee Wardlaw

  • Posted July 24, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Oooh, purrr, I will fix that! I got excited over some kind of kite!
    Cute little Won Ton…everyone loves this one!
    Thanks for the visit!

  • Posted July 25, 2012 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    Kits, cats, kites – I adore this book and am so glad that you featured it! We donated “Won Ton” to the library at my kids’ school in honor of a fabulous literacy specialist. Meeeooooow!

  • Posted July 25, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Meoww is right!

  • Posted July 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Hi! I’m a youth services librarian just getting started in blogging here on WordPress. I first read about your blog on Fuse #8 and when I started up here I decided to follow it. I really like it! Would you mind if I linked here from my page? And when I say my page, I really should say ours, since there are two others contributing to it :-). Thanks for sharing your insights with the world. I can’t wait to read Won Ton, I’m ordering it as soon as I navigate away from this page.

  • Posted July 26, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Hello! And welcome! Thanks for the kind words, and definitely link to me. More than welcome. I’ll come check out your little home on the web, too!

  • romellebroas
    Posted July 26, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    I need to get this book! Carter, I enjoy your breakdown of picture books from an illustrator’s POV. I am a writer not an illustrator, but I am learning a lot from you. Very intriguing! Thanks.

  • Posted July 26, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Romelle!

  • Posted August 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Being a cat person…I got this book from the get-go. I, too, love the way you look at how the illustrations and text work together. You make me think of things that I know will improve my stories as I am writing and thinking of what is left to the illustrator.

  • Posted August 22, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Penny! That is such an awesome compliment.