Wabi Sabi, the cat, goes on a journey to find the meaning of her name. She asks a cat friend, a dog, a bird, and finally a monkey. Each says, “That’s hard to explain”—the catch phrase of the book. Slowly she discovers that it is a kind of humble beauty, you will be exploring with student.
Mark Reibstein, Little Brown, © 2008, 9789-0-316-11825-5
A springboard from a picture book to personal writing should provide at least three topics if possible. Here are some ideas:
- Wabi Sabi wants to know what his name means. What does your name mean? Tell a story about how you got your name(s), or nickname.
- Wabi Sabi goes on a journey to find the answer to her question. Write about any journeys you have been on.
- This story is set in Japan. Either write “Everything I know about Japan” or “Everything I know about Canada, B.C., or my home town.”
- Wabi Sabi asks for an explanation. Explain how to do a few things that were hard for you to do at first.
There is a nice YouTube video of how Mark Reibstein came to write the book based on what he learned about Wabi-sabi while teaching in Japan, and his adoption of his cat. Then Ed Young explains how he illustrated it, how the illustrations were actually lost or stolen, and how he came to use ordinary materials to create the next version. Rather nice.
Three Japanese locations are mentioned as Wabi Sabi conducts his search for the meaning of his name: Tokyo, Mount Hiei, and Ginkakuji. Put them on a simple map of Japan. Ask the students to think about how to calculate the distance of the journey, round trip from Tokyo to Mount Hiei to Ginkakuji and back to Tokyo. The fastest way will be Google. Just search “Distance from Tokyo to Mount Hiei” etc. and add the numbers which will turn out to be over 900 km—a long distance for a cat.
For 9 creative writing ideas, click Wabi Sabi to download.