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Won Ton Haiku

Won Ton
A Cat Tale Told in Haiku

Written by Lee Wardlaw
Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Henry Holt & Company Books for Young Readers
$16.99/Ages 4 and up/ISBN 978-0-8050-8995

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A beguiling tale of an abandoned shelter cat
and the boy who takes him home…

won ton and chopstick book cover
Won Ton now has a has a companion!  
Won Ton and Chopstick - A Cat and Dog Tale told in Haiku.  

2014 Prairie Pasque (South Dakota) Young Reader Award Nominee
2014 Nevada Young Readers Award Nominee
2014 Young Hoosier (Indiana) Book Award Nominee
2014 Sequoyah (Oklahoma) Children's Book Award Nominee
2014 Grand Canyon (Arizona) Young Reader Award Nominee
2013 Winner, Chickadee (Maine) Reader's Choice Award (Picture Books)
2013 Beehive (Utah) Poetry Book Award Winner
2013 North Carolina Children's Book Award Nominee
2013 AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award Winner
2013 Mockingbird (Texas) Award Nominee
2013 Chuckwagon (Texas) Picture Book Reading List
2013 California Readers - California Collections List
2013 Kentucky Bluegrass Award Nominee (Grades K-2)
2013 Armadillo (Texas) Readers' Choice Award Nominee
2013 Red Dot Children's Choice Award Nominee (Singapore)
2013 Rhode Island Children's Book Award Finalist (3rd Place)
2012-13 Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award Nominee
2012-2013 Mentor Text, Young Writers' Project, North Dakota Reading Association
2012-2013 Surrey Schools Picture Book of the Year Nominee (British Columbia Teacher-Librarians Association)
2012-2013 Fiction Diggers List
2012 NCTE/CLA Notable Children's Book in the English Language Arts
2012 SCBWI Crystal Kite Members' Choice Award - California/Texas Region
2012 San Francisco Book Festival - Best Children's Book
2012 Myra Cohn Livingston Poetry Award
2012 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award
2012 CCBC Best Children's Books of the Year
2012 ALSC Notable Children's Books
2012 Los Angeles Book Festival - Best Children's Book
2012 Nominee: Capitol Choices Noteworthy Books for Children
2012 Nominee: Sakura Award (Japanese Children's Choice Award)
2012 Recommended Reading List, Reading Circle Committee, Missouri State Teachers Association
2012 Librarians' Choices List
2011-12 AISLE (Indiana) Read-Alouds Too Good to Miss List
2011 SLJ Best Books of the Year
2011 Washington Post Best Books of the Year
2011 Cat Writers' Association Muse Medallion (Best Children's Book)
2011 Fancy Feast Best Friends Award (Best Children's Book)
2011 Forward National Literature Award (Best Picture Book)
2011 NYPL Best Books of the Year - Poetry
2011 NYPL 100 Books for Reading and Sharing
2011 BSCE/CBC Monthly Pick (April)
2011 Lasting Connections List - Book Links Magazine
2011 Nerdies Award (Poetry)


Click here for a Teacher’s Guide!
Click here for Lee Wardlaw's pawsome Kitty Litter Cake!
Click here to watch an interview with Lee Wardlaw
on Literary Gumbo!

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won ton

Can you find a home for Won Ton?  These reviewers did!

Red Star

Kirkus (starred review): Perfect pussycat poetry for anyone who has ever loved a shelter cat."

Red Star

Booklist (starred review): “…[a] wry, heart-warming title that’s sure to find wide acceptance in the classroom and beyond."

Red Star

School Library Journal (starred review): Won Ton’s sweetly humorous story will steal the hearts of readers young and old.”

won ton haiku


Publisher’s Weekly: “…Wardlaw has a fine understanding of the feline mind, and each 17-syllable poem packs a big impact…A surprisingly powerful story in verse.”


Chicago Tribune: “From the front cover on, this nameless shelter cat steals the show, with wide eyes, a sinewy body and a blue-gray coat... The charm of the text is that we see everything anew, from the cat's perspective…”


Toledo Blade: “Teachers rejoice! Here is a book that makes haiku more fun than a writing exercise on syllabification. Wardlaw clearly understands cats and cleverly depicts typical cat actions…Yelchin's stylized Russian Blue with great blue eyes captures Won Ton's comically aloof attitude to perfection.”

  Buffalo News: "The poignant story of a shelter cat finding a forever home unfolds in haiku verse in this funny, lovely and original picture book…offering a beguiling mix of humor…and emotion—along with a painless lesson in the creative possibilities of this form of poetry.”

  Wall Street Journal: "Sometimes the full savor of a book only comes through silent absorption. That is manifestly the case with Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku. Children old enough to read will get the full force of the harmonious combination of Lee Wardlaw's wry verse and Eugene Yelchin's witty illustration.

  Christian Science Monitor: “…winning drawings [and] perfectly formed haiku.”

  Amy Shojai, Cat Behavior Expert: “This lovely book belongs in every cat lover's library. It painlessly educates children to basic cat behaviors and emotions, teaches empathy, and celebrates the gift of saving a life. Each short verse details one aspect of a shelter cat's journey from a cage to finally embracing his new life and family with trust and love. I would love to send this book home with every new kitten and cat adoption. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.”

won ton Haiku

  A Fuse #8 Production: “…With plenty of things to love for poetry and cat lovers alike, Won Ton takes an old form and renders it furry… A cheery ode to a boy and his cat, this is one of the books to grab the next time someone asks you for “fun haiku”. Or really, any poetry in general.”

  Hicklebee’s Children’s Book Store: “Lee Wardlaw has created an incredible book - it's poetry, it's an adoption tale, it's an animal story and it is magnificent.”

  Cat Fancy Magazine: "Won Ton’s feisty, playful personality is revealed, creating a sweet story that will resonate with readers young and old."

  Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast: “…captivating…”


BookPage: “…wonderfully innovative, telling a story through a series
of senryu that are compelling yet quite accessible to young readers
…a touching tale, made even more dramatic by Yelchin’s sublime illustrations, [which add]drama, emotion, fun and beauty.”


Bookends: “…Yelchin appears as familiar with feline antics as author Wardlaw. This is a literary cat that can be believed in whether exhibiting indifference or indignance…There’s a really delightful story here too, wonderfully crafted poems and illustrations that are comic but also convey the very essence of cat nature….

“I love finding picture books that can be used to demonstrate topics with older students as so often the picture books are clear, direct and short to read.  Won Ton is a perfect book to use to demonstrate these poetic forms to students of all ages.  Put this on a visual presenter and read this one and students will be grabbed by the fun and the form.  Ask them to try their hand at creating a senryu about an animal or human in their lives.”

Read a hilarious review of Won Ton (written in zee French accent!) in Spider Magazine for Children:http://www.spidermagkids.com/books/miro/won-ton-a-cat-tale-told-haiku

  Read a purrfect review of Won Ton in Mousebreath: A Lifestyle Magazine Written by Cats for Cats:

wonton haiku

The Tail Behind the Tale…
by Lee Wardlaw

A child’s first spoken word is usually “Da-Dad” or “Ma-Ma.”  Mine was “Pissy” – a one-year-old’s fusion of “kitty” and “pussy cat.”

Obviously, my affinity for felines goes waaaaay back!

While I was growing up, my family adopted numerous stray cats, including:

paw Pit-a-Pat (a big, dumb Tom who acted blasé even if you carried him upside-down, which I did frequently until he ran away.  Hm…);

paw Frank (whom we renamed Francine after ‘he’ gave birth to a litter of six kittens);

paw Jeffer (the ultimate Lap Cat, who purred and drooled with abandon when petted);

paw Prudence and Patience (who were neither);Tribble (Star Trek rules!);
paw Ki Ki (a Siamese with an insatiable appetite for wool. My mother gave him away after he chewed a huge       hole in our living room drapes and gnawed off the pocket of my new blue coat, which was fine with me, as I H.A.T.E.D. that blue coat.  It itched!).

My son, Patterson, is also a card-carrying cat person.  So when our beloved Snowshoe Siamese, Beaujolais, died of cancer, we visited a local shelter to interview kittens.  It was an experience right out of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’:  “That one is too shy. That one, too bite-y.  Ew! That one is sleeping in his litter box!  Hold on, wait.  Maybe…Yes! This one is Just Right.”

We signed the adoption papers and brought the mewling, gold-eyed ball of black fluff home with us – where he immediately skittered under Patterson’s bed and stayed for three whole days. When he finally ventured out to snub his first dish of food and bat at an Hawaiian shell lei, Patterson named him Mai Tai.

And so began our life together…

…and my idea for a new book.

Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku is based on the true story of Patterson’s and Mai Tai’s growing friendship.

As for why I wrote their story in haiku?  It seemed fitting. Cats embody haiku. They live in the moment; their beauty is compact, simple, vivid; they speak volumes in only a few words. If cats could talk, I’m pretty sure it would be in the poetry of haiku.


Lee, age 6, with her first cat, Pit-a-Pat

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Lee Wardlaw lives in Santa Barbara, CA, with her
husband, teenage son and three former shelter cats: 

Mai Tai (a.k.a. The Black); Koloa (a.k.a. ZuZu’s Petals) and Papaya (a.k.a. Stinky or Big Boy). Lee often writes with Koloa on her lap and Papaya sleep-shedding on her desk. When she breaks for lunch, Mai Tai usually presents to her a collection of internal organs from his latest kills (rabbits, mice, gophers, rats), arranged in a zen-like manner at the back door.


Lee, many years later, with her kitty, Koloa

mai tai

Mai Tai & ‘Friend’


Papaya thinks he’s hiding!


Kool Kitty Links


Animal Shelter Assistance Program
A no-kill shelter in Santa Barbara County that provides a healthy, safe environment for adoptable cats.


kitten rescue

Kitten Rescue
Los Angeles-based non-profit organization dedicated to saving abandoned cats and kittens.



ASPCA Education
Materials and resources for teachers, librarians, children and parents. Includes lesson plans and book lists.


Mutts Comics Official Website
Get the latest news about Mooch the cat (okay, and Earl the dog) and other Mutts Shtuff by Patrick McDonnell.

lol cats

I Can Has Cheez Burger
Laugh-out-loud kitty pix.

cat writers

Cat Writers’ Association (CWA)
An organization of professionals who write, publish and/or broadcast about all things feline.

Cats for kids

Cats For Kids
A website for young people, sponsored by Cats Protection, featuring feline facts, history, craft ideas, games, care tips and more.

leg cat

Cat Facts and Trivia
An extensive list of everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-kitties, compiled by Glenda Moore.

free kibble Free Kibble Kat
12-year-old Mimi Ausland, from Bend Oregon, started this site to help feed the hungry cats (and dogs!) at her local Humane Society. Her site has grown since its inception in April, 2008, 'feeding fine food to furry felines' in shelters across the country. Just one click of your mouse provides 10 pieces of kibble to a hungry kitty. Visit the site every day and play Meow Trivia to provide even more free kibble!

Lee's Favorite Cat Books

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Curious Collection of Cats
Concrete Poems by Betsy Franco
Illustrated by Michael Wertz
Tricycle Press
Winner of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and a purrfect companion book to Won Ton!

All I Need to Know I Learned from My Cat
Written & Illustrated by Suzy Becker
Wise and witty! Delightful illustrations

by B. Kliban
A Classic.  Who can forget Wacka Wacka (not widely used) or Noko Marie, Don’t Mess with Me?

Written & Designed by Pat Welch
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Zen humor.  Aren’t all cats koans, anyway?

Earth Tigerlets
(As Explained by Professor Xargle)
Written by Jeanne Willis
Illustrated by Tony Ross
This book still makes me laugh so hard I spit. Love those ‘shoe squishies’.

Friendship of Milly and Tug
Written by Dian Curtis Regan
Illustrated by Jennifer Danza
Heartwarming, humorous chapter book, written by one of my best friends.  Winner of the Cat Writers’ Association Muse Medallion.)

Grandma’s Cat
Written by Helen Ketteman
Illustrated by Marsha Lynn Winborn
The perfect book to introduce young children to the finicky temperament of cats.

Hannah and Jack
Written by Mary Nethery
Illustrated by Mary Morgan
Sweet and clever story about a young girl who, while on vacation, sends postcards home to the cat she misses.

How to Save Your Tail
*if you are a rat nabbed by cats who really like stories about magic spoons, wolves with snout-warts, big, hairy chimney trolls . . . and cookies, too.

Written by Mary Hanson
Illustrated by John Hendrix
Schwartz and Wade
Another book that is soooo hilarious I almost spit each time I read it!  Okay, so the cats are the villains in this instance, but you willingly forgive Hanson because her fractured fairy tales are So. Freaking. Hysterical.

I Am the Cat
Written by Alice Schertle
Illustrated by Mark Buehner
Best. Poetry. Ever. (About cats, that is!)
My fav is ‘Sophie, Who Taunted the Dogs.’
Buehner’s illustrations are part comedy, part magic.  Look for the hidden pictures-within-pictures on each page!

Kat Kong
Written & Illustrated by Dave Pilkey
Oh my. This book is soooo silly.  Full puns that make you snort and groan. Read this one aloud with lots of vim, vigor and waving of arms.  Fav scene: When Kat Kong falls off the Empire State Building:  ‘Meeeeeeeeeeeeeowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!’

Kitten’s First Full Moon
Written & Illustrated by Kevin Henkes
What can I say? Exquisite art, a simple but lovely story.  It won the Caldecott Medal, too.

Mutts: The Comic Art of Patrick McDonnell
Harry Abrams, Inc.
He’s a genius.  YESH!

Picasso and Minou
Written by P.I. Maltbie
Illustrated by Pau Estrada
Who knew it was a cat that nudged Picasso out of his Blue period?  Fascinating story. Gorgeous illustrations.
Winner of the CWA Muse Medallion.

Written by Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrated by Leonard Wisegard
A BIG Golden Book
This was my favorite book at the age of 3.  I still love it today.  MWB was brilliant in her simplicity.
And the art: Me-WOW! Winner of the CWA Muse Medallion.

Splat the Cat
Written & Illustrated by Rob Scotton
I love Scotton’s cats with their fuzzy exuberance.

Tales of Grandpa Cat
Written by Lee Wardlaw
Illustrated by Ronald Searle
Dial Books for Young Readers
Okay, shameless self-promotion. But wouldn’t you shamelessly promote if Ronald Searle had illustrated YOUR book?

When Cats Dream
Written & Illustrated by Dav Pilkey
So you think Pilkey is just all Kat Kong and Captain Underpants?  Think again.  This man can PAINT!

Whiskers and Rhymes
Written & Illustrated by Arnold Lobel

Original nursery rhymes written by the talented man who also brought us the chapter books about Frog and Toad.  A classic.


won ton on display Won Ton on display at the American Library Association Convention, January 2011
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