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Micro-Book Review: Wabi Sabi

Wabi Sabi
Written by Mark Reibstein
Illustrated by Ed Young

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2008
40 pages

A children’s story such as Wabi Sabi, might come across to readers as too philosophical for a child to understand. That is far from the truth. The book speaks quietly and deftly about how children often perceive reality. Children are more curious about deeper questions about life than adults realize. The author makes this clear through the musings of a Japanese cat named Wabi Sabi. She is on a mission, which is to discover the meaning of her name. She asks a dog and another cat. No luck. On the recommendation of a bird, she decides to travel to Mount Hiei to ask Kosho, a wise monkey. However, the monkey simply says, “Simple things are beautiful.” The cat goes home, not unhappy, but at peace with a name she simply is blessed to have in all its simplicity. But before she goes home, she spots a temple, and realizes that beautiful things do not have to be “grand” and “fancy.” Children exploring the meaning of their name will find joy and pleasure in the cat doing the same. I was happily lost in the quiet path of haikus that trail along the pages of the story, and with the astonishing art work representing trees, ponds, and mountains that makes up the landscape of Japan. It made me think of my own name and made me wonder, “What does it mean?” Toward the end of the book, Wabi Sabi is moved enough by his simple name to write these beautiful haikus that weave together into a beautiful poem after he sees the simple beauty of a palace:

 

Yellow bamboo stalks

bow by teahouse doors so low

emperors must kneel.

 

Dark buildings, floating,

sit on white sand seas. A stream

sweeps small stones, chanting.

 

The monk returns leaves

to just-raked sand. This humble

cat might understand.

 

Jeevan Narney earned his MFA in poetry from the University of Arizona in May 2013.

 

Created on: 
Monday, December 16, 2013
Arizona Board of Regents