Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein. il by Ed Young.
Little, Brown and Company: NY, 2008.

Wabi Sabi is a jewel. Perhaps that's not the best word for a book whose heart is simplicity, but it is a rare and beautiful book.

Wabi Sabi is a cat that sets out on a journey of discovery when she learns that her name has a meaning. She quickly finds that it is not easy to grasp. Many tell her that it is hard to explain and give her only a glimpse of the meaning. Wabi Sabi is a Japanese way of thinking about the beauty of the simple and ordinary. You look closer, and you see unexpected things, sometimes complex ideas. It has roots in Taoism and Buddhism.

The explanations of Wabi Sabi are told through haiku by two famous Japanese writers, Basho and Shiki, and translated by Nanae Tamura, judge of a national haiku contest in Japan. There are brief narratives and dialogue before each haiku. The two parts combine to make a peaceful and magnificent story. The theme and tone remind me of Jon Muth's The Three Questions, Zen Shorts, and Zen Ties. They all share a gentle teaching combined with awe surrounding simple, overlooked things. This is definitely one to keep on your shelf and give as a gift.

The illustrations are also remarkable. They are rendered in mixed media collage, with cut-outs and natural objects on differently textured and painted backgrounds, and even a snapshot for the city life. I love the variation of textures and surfaces and the artistic assemblage of the whole. The art itself exemplifies the meaning of Wabi Sabi, adding to the undercurrent of awe.

related-cats, animals, aesthetics, beauty, simplicity, Japanese, haiku, discovery, search for truths, way of life
RL=1st-2nd, all ages, best to share with toddlers-1st

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