As a resolute dog lover, there aren’t many books written about cats that I enjoy. However, the originality and authenticity of author Lee Wardlaw and illustrator Eugene Yelchin’s Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku will win over dog lovers even more devout than me. Won Ton is the heartwarming story of a cat named Won Ton adjusting to his adoptive family. Won Ton tells the story in haiku form, revealing the temperamental but loving thoughts that are typical of any cat. My favorite haiku is, “Eavesdropping, I hear: ‘My cat.’ Great rats! Don’t you know yet that you’re My Boy?” It perfectly captures Won Ton’s pride and belief that he is the dominant being in their relationship.
Not only is Won Ton’s haiku format unique for a children’s story – so is the fact that it’s written from the point of view of a cat. Won Ton reveals cats’ thought processes for many common actions their owners may not understand. For example, he explains that he scratched the couch instead of his actual scratching post because it was closer. Also, we learn that he prefers sleeping on his owner’s socks to his bed because they smell like his owner. The briefness of the haikus is a good fit for children’s short attention span, and each poem still manages to be funny and heartwarming, showing the dichotomy of Won Ton’s rebellious yet caring nature.
The illustrations are less unique than the format and narrative, but they are still integrated well with the story. They consist of varied and bright watercolors, and they convey Won Ton’s actions as he yawns, leaps, explores, and even scratches his owner’s toes and kneads his stomach. Many extend to full-page spreads that are beautifully designed and flow well with the text. They expand upon the meaning of certain haikus, such as one image that shows that a particularly angry haiku is in response to another cat coming into Won Ton’s yard.
Won Ton’s simple storyline may be better suited for younger elementary grades; however, older elementary students would enjoy the format and would especially enjoy counting the number of syllables for each haiku and even creating their own haikus about their family pet afterward. The story serves as a reminder of the loving relationship between owner and pet, and it provides children with some possible reasons behind their own pet’s behavior.