Friday, February 20, 2009


Wabi Sabi
By Mark Reibstein
Illustrated by Ed Young

I know it's been awhile since I did a book review, but I am in love with this book!!!

It combines more things I love than any other children's book ever: kitties, Kyoto, Haiku, wabi sabi, mixed media collage, books that go from top to bottom instead of left to right, zen proverbs... The list is huge.

One day Wabi Sabi the cat overhears his mistress discussing her name with a pair of visitors. When asked what "wabi sabi" means, the young woman replies, "That's hard to explain." Curious, Wabi Sabi sets out to find the true meaning of her name. Each creature she asks explains how difficult a concept it is to explain, and they often end their thoughts with a little haiku (each one describing wabi sabi in some manner). It isn't until the cat meets a wise monkey and partakes of tea in a plain and beautiful bowl that the phrase begins to take on a real meaning. Wabi sabi is the feeling you get when you find harmony in the imperfect that is beautiful. Stopping at a temple on her way home, Wabi Sabi creates poems in its honor and truly understands her name by the time she meets up with her mistress once again.

Each page features a simple prose passage followed by a haiku, in what known as Haibun form. Even cooler, along the side of every page is a classic haiku by either Matsuo Basho or Masaoka Shiki, written in Japanese. At the end of the book there is a transliteration and translation of the famous poems, as well as a history of wabi sabi, haiku and haibun.

I'll leave you with my favorite of the bonus haiku (by Shiki)

Yuku ware ni todomaru nare ni aki futatsu

for me leaving
for you staying
two autumns

1 comment:

Kat said...

Wabi Sabi is the name of a thrift store in Moab, UT. Just FYI.

Also... looking for a good baby present to some friends who will have a baby... sometime in the next few months. I'm thinking... a fun and slightly corrupting kids book... any ideas?

Word: Crotant. Sounds like something from Starship Troopers!