Friday, August 8, 2014

Picture Books about Haiku

This post provides descriptions of some of my favorite picture books about haiku and is the second post in this series dealing with haiku poetry. Read the first post, Do You Haiku?, an overview of the pros and cons of teaching kids haiku. Next week I will share my favorite picture books told in haiku.

Picture Books about Haiku


Cool Melons Turn to Frogs - the life and poems of Issa by Matthew Gollub (text and haiku translations) and illustrated by Kazuko G. Stone. This biography of the famous Japanese poet Issa (1763-1827)  links his personal story to some of the many haiku that he wrote and published. Students gain a deeper understanding of the hidden meaning and power in some haiku, especially those that connect to Issa's troubled childhood and family issues.

Motherless sparrow, 
come play
with me
(Written when Issa was six. His mother died when he was three.)

The biography is interspersed with full pages of illustration devoted to a single haiku, in both English and Japanese. The book concludes with a detailed Author's Note about the story, the illustrations, additional discussion of a few of the haiku from the book, and a description of haiku in general. These are great resources for getting students to know more about the history of haiku and to study powerful examples of Japanese haiku.


Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein and art by Ed Young. This lavishly done picture book introduces students to the Japanese concept of wabi sabi through the quest of one cat to find the answer. The story is not told entirely in haiku, but each two-page spread includes one haiku in English as part of the story and another in Japanese. (The Japanese haiku are original haiku by Basho (1644-1694) and Shiki (1867-1902) and connect to the story and illustrations where they are found. English translations are included in the back of the book.)

how comfortable
touching the cool wall - 
a daytime nap
(English translation of the haiku from the page with a napping cat.)

The collage-work adds an incredibly three-dimensional feel to the story, though the vertical format will tire out your arms during a read aloud. This is a book geared for older students, as the quest for wabi sabi is not something easy to articulate, and it is a great book for generating discussion. I also appreciate the inclusion of authentic haiku to give students a feel for them.

This week's Poetry Friday Roundup is being curated by Mary Lee and Franki at A Year of Reading. See the whole list of hosts at Poetry Friday by Kitlitosphere.

12 comments:

  1. Wabi Sabi might want to meet Won Ton, another cat tale told in haiku!

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    1. Absolutely! I like to have a Won Ton / Dogku back-to-back. Those will both be in next week's post on books that are entirely in haiku. Thanks so much for commenting!

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  2. I love Wabi Sabi, Katie, and you're right, it is for older students. Thanks for the Cool Melons title too.

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    1. Glad to help, Linda! My third graders find the illustrations lovely for Won Ton, but the fourth graders were much better equipped to have a deeper conversation about it.

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    1. Very cool, thanks so much, Diane!

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  4. Hi there Katie, Wabi Sabi is a personal favourite - it's a veritable work of art. Cool Melons is a new to me picture book, thanks for sharing! :)

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    1. You're welcome, Myra! Cool Melons is a great resource, since it provides a really interesting biography and helps connect a poet's life to his haiku. Thanks for commenting!

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  5. Have you read HI, KOO! by Jon Juth? New this year... haiku through the seasons. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Hi Irene, yes, I have. Hi Koo will be in my list next week of books told in haiku or of haiku. The kids really love Koo and his antics!

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  6. Oops, happy fingers... Jon MUTH. :)

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  7. Both titles are now on my library reserve list! Thanks for the great introduction to these wonderful resources, Katie. = )

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