Illustrated by: Ed Young
Published by: Little, Brown and Co
Ages: 3 – 6 years
Theme: simplicity, understanding, harmony, the mysterious, the journey
Opening Lines: Wabi Sabi was a cat who lived in Kyoto, Japan. One day, visitors from another country asked Wabi Sabi’s master what her name meant. It had never occurred to her before that wabi sabi was anything more than her name. Wabi Sabi watched as her master drew breath through her teeth, shook her head, and said: “That’s hard to explain.”
Synopsis: From the inside flat – Wabi Sabi, a little cat in Kyoto, Japan, has never thought about her name, until friends visiting from another land ask what it means. The master says, “That is hard to explain.” And that is all she says. The curious Wabi Sabi then sets out on an adventure to discover the true meaning of her name. Using spare text and haiku, Mark Reibstein weaves an extraordinary story about finding real beauty in unexpected places. Caldecott Medal-winning artist Ed Young complements the lyrical text with breathtaking collages. Together, they illustrate the unique world view that is wabi sabi.
Why I like this: This was an interesting book, opening in a top to bottom fashion as opposed to left to right. I loved the message this story brings in a subtle way. Wabi Sabi goes on a journey to find out the meaning of her name, not realising all along there are gentle hints being given by each creature she asks along the way. It is not till drinking tea with a wise monkey does Wabi Sabi realise it is the simple things that are beautiful. In plain things there can be great beauty. Like the cities sharp clear high-rise buildings, the dark and green of the forest can be just as majestic. As he instructs Wabi Sabi to sit, listen and feel so do we begin to understand the simplicity.
I loved that in the front of the book we learn the meaning of Wabi Sabi….. A way of seeing the world, that is at the heart of Japanese culture. Finding beauty and harmony in what is simple, imperfect, natural, modest and mysterious. The beautiful almost three-dimensional pictures are huge two page spreads. They kind of pop on the page and you feel you could almost lift them out.
It seemed as though it was planned that I should post this book at such a time when I am going through such a stressful time with work and my Mum being so ill. This is certainly a book on reflection of inner peace and beauty which in a way, brings calm. I am looking forward to my two-week holiday overseas. See you all soon.
Findings/Resources: At the back of the book is the history of Wabi Sabi and information on Haiku and Haibun. (I thought of you Catherine when I read this book). There are Japanese haiku appearing decorately throughout the book. Also translations of the Haiku. There is also a description from the illustrator of what was used for his illustrations.
More description of Wabi Sabi… http://www.nobleharbor.com/tea/chado/WhatIsWabi-Sabi.htm
See this amazing story of how the original artwork was lost. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ca2Ly4Vpb5Y
A good exercise for children is to have them stay silent for a while and then after a short time ask them to write down what they heard, smelled, and felt. What they noticed around them that they may not have noticed before. This would be great done outside in the school yard, for instance.
For more books with resources please head on over and visit the lovely author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books. Her blog is full of resources links and activities associated with the books reviewed by many authors