Won-Ton is a picture book story-in-poems about a shelter cat who is chosen from the rest and gradually settles into his new home. Wardlaw uses senryu, a form of Japanese poetry, to capture the feline personality page by page, poem by poem. The cat himself narrates his story and has an arch opinion about all the things he encounters in this new setting. Gradually, he bonds with his new owner, a little boy, and even reveals his “real” name by the end of the book. A unique spin on “adoption,” Wardlaw channels the cat’s independent spirit in unexpected ways.
The cartoon illustrations by Eugene Yelchin offer angular images of this persnickety cat full of sly energy and movement. The cat appears to slink across the page with the spare poems placed perfectly throughout. This unique book earned the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award for 2012.
Discuss the differences between haiku (about nature) and senryu (about human nature) and work together to try creating original examples of each. Collaborate to create a new cat or pet story with children working in pairs to write senryu poems and make a class book. Students may also want to research more information about cat behavior and shelter adoptions in their communities. Provide opportunities for them to tell their own stories about the pets in their lives.
Other collections of haiku:
Janeczko, Paul B. WING NUTS: SCREWY HAIKU. ISBN 0316607312
Mora, Pat. YUM! MMM! QUE RICO! AMERICAS’ SPROUTINGS. ISBN 978-1584302711
Prelutsky, Jack. IF NOT FOR THE CAT: HAIKU. 978-0060596774
Raczka, Bob. GUYKU. ISBN 978-0547240039
Rosen, Michael J. THE CUCKOO’S HAIKU AND OTHER BIRDING POEMS. ISBN 978-0763630492
By Sylvia M. Vardell