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Wabi Sabi

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  1,182 Ratings  ·  245 Reviews
Wabi Sabi, a little cat in Kyoto, Japan, had never thought much about her name until friends visiting from another land asked her owner what it meant.

At last, the master
Says, "That's hard to explain." And
That is all she says.

This unsatisfying answer sets Wabi Sabi on a journey to uncover the meaning of her name, and on the way discovers what wabi sabi is: a Japanese ph
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published October 1st 2008 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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(showing 1-30)
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Excellent introduction to "wabi sabi" and the Taoist and Japanese Zen views of life. The artwork is great, lots of collages, and the story is simple and sweet and touching--and THOUGHTFUL. The haiku element is a nice touch. I'm not sure if young children will really appreciate all of the elements, but I think they would appreciate the story of the cat's journey and the other creatures that she meets, and haiku can be really fun! Besides, children are so "wabi sabi" naturally! ;->
Feb 15, 2010 j rated it liked it
Recommends it for: my friend debi
Recommended to j by: snobs
Read about this in the New York Times: children's book based on a Japanese philosophical aesthetic with pictures created from hand-made paper collages, and it stars a cat. I gave it as a gift to a friend who is obsessed with A) paper making, B) Japanese art and C) cats. So it was a pretty good gift.

The artwork is beautiful and the story lyrical and unusual. But I don't know how much a kid would actually get out of (or into) it -- wabi-sabi (侘寂) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or a
Sep 07, 2008 Betsy rated it it was amazing
Credit author Mark Reibstein with this much. He sure doesn’t shy away from trying to teach kids complex philosophical concepts. Here he is writing his very first picture book and does he select something easy like being the new kid in school or losing your first tooth? No, Reibstein decides to write a book about the ancient Chinese concept of wabi sabi (later adopted by the Japanese), working in thoughts on Taoism, haiku, and even the works of Basho on the sly. Paired alongside the remarkable Ed ...more
Lisa Vegan
May 18, 2009 Lisa Vegan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who appreciate children’s books that will be enjoyed at least as much by adults
Recommended to Lisa by: Chandra
This book is simply spectacular. I’m in danger of using hyperbole here. It really blew me away.

It’s one of those books that are ostensibly for children but that can be enjoyed at least as much by adults.

It starts uniquely because the binding is not on the left side, as it is in most English language books, but at the top.

The collages that make up the illustrations are gorgeous and interesting; they’re really special. I particularly loved the page with the leaves.

The story is interspersed with m
Roxanne Hsu Feldman
Aug 01, 2008 Roxanne Hsu Feldman rated it really liked it
For a book whose intent is to introduce a highly unexplainable Zen/Tao concept, a way of life and looking at the simple things to see their beauty in life, this one actually succeeds quite nicely. Ed Young's stunning paper and object collages definitely capture and enrich the telling of the "tale." The unusual way of opening the book (flipping pages "upward" rather than "left-ward" -- it's hard to explain!) also adds to the texture of the reading experience. The only slight complaint I have is t ...more
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
Jun 01, 2009 Kelly H. (Maybedog) rated it really liked it
Shelves: what-children
Gorgeous illustrations prop up an ordinary plot about a cat on a quest for information about himself, namely what his name means. I'm not sure I completely got what Wabi Sabi is, it came across to me as kind of a cross between the concept of simplicity, the appreciation of rustic and a little of being at home with the ordinary. The closest thing I can think that we have in my culture is the concept of country in decorating, that rustic, down-home, appreciation of the worn and used. One of the be ...more
Jan 19, 2009 Toby rated it really liked it
By any definition, this book is a work of art. The question is: should the Caldecott Medal, which honors the artist of the most distinguished picture book for children, be given to a work of art, one that appeals not just to children, but to all ages and on many different levels? I say yes.
Awards should expand the definition of excellence in a picture book, as The Invention of Hugo Cabret did in 2008. Excellence can embrace both the traditional and the unique in format, artistic technique and
Jan 19, 2009 Christy rated it it was amazing
Wabi Sabi provides a visual, artistic and cultural experience for readers of all ages. It is a book that can be read over and over only to discover new details, appreciate more beauty and ascertain more information. The significant cultural theme is developed brilliantly through the illustrations and the text. It is clearly a distinguished children’s picture book and should be considered for the Caldecott Medal.
Ed Young’s mixed-media artwork is breath-taking. His collages, made from natural ma
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Ok, I loved it, but how many kids are going to understand the concept of wabi sabi presented here? This seems to me to be one of those books written by adults who don't have kids in mind. Having said that, I loved, as always, Ed Young's illustrations, collage/papercuttings made with natural materials. The definition of wabi sabi, given on the title page, says it "finds beauty and harmony in what is simple, imperfect, natural, modest, and mysterious. It can be a little dark, but it is also warm a ...more
The Library Lady
Feb 09, 2009 The Library Lady rated it it was ok
If I was a thoughtful, philosophical, organic shopping, tree hugging grownup without a small child, I'd buy this.

If I was a cat obsessive who collects everything cat, I'd buy this.

If I was a "hip", "with it" children's librarian who appreciates the depths of this book, the fact that it's gorgeously illustrated by Caledecott winning artist Ed Young, and nothing else, I'd buy it.

But I'm a grumpy, aging mother of 2 who gardens organically but can't afford to shop at Whole Foods,I'm the owner of cat
Woody Hayday
Apr 01, 2017 Woody Hayday rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature-truth
A valuable reminder to find beauty in everything.

Woody Hayday
Oct 17, 2009 Dolly rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a fantastic tale that combines poetry, art, philosophy, and a nice little tale as well. Wabi Sabi is a cat who wants to know the significance of his name. So he goes on a journey of discovery and finally comes to peace with the world and his place in it.

This book is as much of a look into Eastern philosophy as anything and the haiku poetry is wonderful. I absolutely loved the collage artwork and it is appropriate that the book lists "Art by Ed Young," rather than just listing him as an
Michelle Pegram
Apr 30, 2014 Michelle Pegram rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rll528-asian
Wabi Sabi is the story of a cat out to discover the meaning of her name, which she shares with the title. She discovers that the meaning, being able to see the world through the beauty of simple things, is hard to explain. After a long journey, she finally discovers the meaning, even if she has a hard time explaining it herself. Each two page spread of this beautiful book contains some lines in prose and two haiku poems; one in English and one in Japanese. The stunning images are multi-media and ...more
Published in 2008 by Little Brown and Company
Interest Level: 4th-7th Grade

This is a book about a Japanese cat named Wabi Sabi and its quest to find out the meaning of its name. Sparsely used text and haiku show off the illustrations and search for meaning. The collages made by Ed Young are particularly interesting.

The part of this book that seemed odd was the fact that the haiku poems do not match between the English and Japanese versions. The tall presentation of the pages suggests a traditiona
There is a lot packed into this picture book! It is a bilingual book with Haiku poems in English and Japanese characters. It is based on a buddhist principle of simple beauty that has become a Japanese cultural expression. It is written both with narrative and related haiku poems. And it is illustrated in nature-based, highly textured collages that open from top to bottom instead of left to right..

The story follows a cat named Wabi Sabi as he investigates what the concept of Wabi Sabi means. The
Dec 14, 2008 April rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
I couldn't wait to read this book that was named by the New York Times as one of the best children's books of 2008 as well as on of the best illustrated. The Times Reviewers weren't wrong. This is a gorgeous book that I am thrilled to own. It truly is a piece of art. The illustrations alone (by Ed Young) are captivating and require many viewings. The concept of Wabi Sabi, demonstrated through the storyline accompanied by Haiku poems on each page, is fascinating. I just wonder about the audience ...more
Oct 27, 2013 Joan rated it it was amazing
This could be used for story times but only with older children, likely grade 5 or 6 and older. This is a mystical book and lovely. It is a beautiful exploration of the Asian concept that ordinary and simple can be lovely and special. This is called Wabi Sabi. The book is also useful for English teachers trying to show students what Haiku can be and how they are constructed. Many excellent examples are given and translated from two of the greatest Haiku masters of all time. I have read this befo ...more
Mar 09, 2009 Julie rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
As an adult who is familiar with the concept of wabi sabi, I enjoyed this book. I am not sure how much children will take from it though. I would say it is definitely for older children, not the preschool crowd.[return][return]In the book, Wabi Sabi is a cat who wonders what her name means. Everyone she asks says that it is complicated. She continues to seek and eventually sees the beauty and imperfection in that around her and understands that she too is beautiful and imperfect.
Dec 31, 2012 Sarah rated it it was amazing
A beautiful book that skillfully illustrates the tenants of wabi sabi. The calming words and masterful collage really create a work of wabi sabi in the book itself. I bought this for my niece and nephew in 2009 after discovering it in the gift shop of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, and just reread it this Christmas Eve while visiting them. Adults and children can both take away their own lessons and appreciation from this humble, slim book.
Oct 07, 2013 Anna rated it really liked it
Wabi Sabi/ Mark Reibstein/ 2008
Genre: fiction
Format: picture book
Plot Summary: Wabi Sabi, a cat living in the city of Kyoto, learns about the Japanese concept of beauty through simplicity as she asks various animals she meets about the meaning of her name.
Considerations: no red flags
Review Citation: Booklist, vol 105, number 1, p98
Selection Source: Ed Young bibliography
Recommended age: 5-8
Nov 14, 2008 Suzanne rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
The art work is absolutely beautiful but I wonder if this book (as a whole) is too abstract for children. As with most picture books that recieve a ton of Caldecott buzz, I think this one will (also) appeal more to adults. I don't think it would make a good story time book, but would be a nice addition to a personal collection.
Jan 27, 2009 Boni rated it liked it
I don't know what to make of this book. It is physically awkward to hold and read (strange for a read-aloud), but the illustrations are lovely. It has a lovely message as well, however it is not a book that I think kids will understand or relate to in a memorable way. I wish it were more child-friendly, as the topic is unique and interesting. Hmmm....
Tricia Douglas
Aug 08, 2013 Tricia Douglas rated it it was amazing
What a great book! Wabi Sabi wants to know about his name and goes searching. Each place or person/animal he encounters is accompanied by a haiku. The illustrations are done in collages by my favorite artist, Ed Young. I am so happy I ended up buying this book for my collection. Exquisite.
Feb 08, 2016 Amanda rated it liked it
Shelves: childrens-lit
A children's story that tries to explain the Japanese notion of "wabi sabi" through the story of a cat named after this idea and a collection of haiku poems. I loved the way this book was illustrated because it was so different-it looks like paper figures glued onto a page and photographed.
Ms. Sethi
Oct 07, 2016 Ms. Sethi rated it really liked it
What a gorgeous book!
Dec 17, 2008 Lauren rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-book, japan
The concept is better in theory than the execution in this book. Don't confuse the concept with the book.
Ali Hellerman
I though that it was a great book and it explained a very interesting story.
May 31, 2017 Claire rated it it was amazing
A gorgeous book for an imperfect time. Lessons on the beauty and serenity inherent in the everyday, natural, slightly used and in need of repair. Charming collages combine with haiku and grow curiosity in the young and old.
Feb 28, 2017 Yixin rated it it was amazing
This is a great post-modern picture book. I was first interested in its design, not only the design of illustrations and contents, but also the design of the book cover. The whole book defines the title of the book, by through the adventure of a cat whose name is Wabi Sabi. This picture book is not open from right to left like other books or from left to right like those Japanese Manga, the way to read this book is from top to bottom, it quite fascinating. The illustrations is made of paper cut ...more
Mar 05, 2017 Antonise rated it really liked it
Wabi Sabi tells the story of a cat that lives in Kyoto,Japan whose name is Wabi Sabi. All of her life Wabi Sabi never questioned the meaning behind her name until some of her owners friends question the owners. From that point on the story begins to build, Wabi Sabi is on a quest to find the meaning behind her name. Exploring through both the city and countryside of Japan, Wabi Sabi is determined to know the meaning behind her name despite the fact that everyone she comes in contact with is not ...more
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