Friday, April 15, 2011

Won Ton review

Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku
February 2011

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, 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.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Poetry Friday is hosted by Random Noodling this week.


  1. P.S. Eugene Yelchin's art is not digitally enhanced. It's graphite and gouache on watercolor paper. :)

  2. Thanks for that correction! I double-checked my copy of the book, and you are indeed, absolutely correct (and, as the author, why wouldn't you be??) I don't know where on earth I got that from! I'll edit my review appropriately.

  3. This is a terrific, fun book. The art is spectacular and a perfect match for the text. Congratulations to Lee, and thank you, Madigan, for sharing! (Oh, and my cats give it several claws up....)

  4. I love that "bake it with a nap"!!



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