he says, hands cupped on my hip
and pouty belly
he says, hands cupped on my hip
and pouty belly
Green garden gnome
Stares wistfully at rabbit
Rabbit hops away.
Wrinkled rhubarb leaves
Rose-red stalks bursting with juice
My first bite of spring
Where’s my cup of tea?
Packed away somewhere in a
moving box of course.
Finch with string in beak
Flits into tiny birdhouse
Enraging the jays
It’s that time of year again: summer vacation.
School is out, kids are jazzed and parents are wondering how to channel all that young-blood energy into something creative and productive.
We know! Why don’t you teach those kids to write haiku?
With that idea in mind, we’ve compiled a list a picture books that are either written entirely in haiku or incorporate haiku in some manner.
Even though this book is billed as one for kids, as an adult interested in the ways of haiku, I found myself paying close attention as I turned each page.
If the world of haiku is completely new, this book is a great starting place. It gives a brief history of haiku and also offers easy to understand instructions as to exactly what makes a haiku.
Learning activities give kids the first line of a haiku and encourage them to fill in the rest, making the writing of haiku more of a game than a serious endeavor and allowing children to feel successful with the genre right off the bat.
The book also suggests several activities designed to get kids outside. It teaches kids how to take a “haiku” walk and offers an entire chapter about how to combine haiku with paintings or drawings.
If you’re a parent looking for intelligent art projects to do with your kids, a teacher looking for classroom ideas, or a student looking for crafty things you can make on your own, this is a great book.
Follow a young girl as she explores a Japanese garden. On page one, she sees one leaf blowing in the wind. On page two, she notices two foo dogs. On page three, she spies three bonsai trees.
And so the story goes all the way to ten, making this a counting book combined with a haiku book. Each haiku describes the items the young girl has discovered, and each haiku is written in 5-7-5 format. The illustrations offer detailed views of a Japanese garden.
If there’s a Japanese garden in your neck of the woods, this would be a fun book to read in conjunction with a visit there.
Even if there isn’t a Japanese garden nearby, surely there is a park. Share this book with your child before going and then create your own version when you get home. In your park you see one slide, two picnic tables, etc. Challenge yourselves to write each item in haiku!
Author web site of Celeste Davidson Mannis
The idea of “wabi sabi” is an ancient Japanese concept. It means, more or less, that you are able to appreciate the beauty in simple, everyday items or moments that might be missed by most. For example, if you think that the nicks and chips in a piece of pottery are pretty, then you have found wabi sabi.
In this gorgeously illustrated picture book, a cat named Wabi Sabi sets out to try and discover the meaning of her name.
Her journey takes her across Japan. Along the way, she stops to contemplate both the man-made and the natural beauty of the island. For example, she wonders at both the lights of Tokyo and a bamboo forest.
The author combines prose and haiku to tell the tale, which makes the book’s story line easier to understand for a younger audience.
There is a fantastic mini-film about the making of Wabi Sabi that interviews both the author and illustrator posted on YouTube. You can see it here:
Mark Reibstein: Wabi Sabi
This book can be approached in two different ways.
First, it could simply be read as a picture book about a man named Basho who one day decided to lock up his hut and set out on a walking trip across the island of Japan.
As you might expect in a picture book, there is text on each page that propels the story. In this case, the text tells you about the things Basho encountered on his walking trip – an old pine tree, cherry blossoms, kind strangers who shared their food. The illustrations support the story line and are interesting to look at.
On the other hand, if you wanted to use the book as a teaching tool, that is a possibility, too. After all, Basho was a real person; he was the original haiku master. This makes Grass Sandals a biography and in that case, the book can be used to explain the origins of haiku. Sprinkled throughout the book are nine haiku written by Basho in the course of his travels.
Jack Prelutsky is a recognized name in the realm of contemporary children’s poetry. Here, he takes on haiku.
Each of the seventeen haiku in this book is about animals. There is a haiku about a rattlesnake, another about an eagle, and still another about a sloth.
Prelutsky’s haiku follow the 5-7-5 format and each is presented as a riddle. The answer to each riddle-haiku is the illustration on the page.
Each illustration is given a two-page spread, ensuring young children will engage with the big, bold pictures.
For older students, it would be fun to remove the haiku from the book and the illustrations, asking them to solve the riddle-haiku in small groups. Only after solving the riddles can they see the book to check their answers.
Author web site of Jack Prelutsky
“Haiku,” writes illustrator G. Brian Karas in his introduction, “tries to capture a single moment, like a snapshot of time or a feeling, in a way that reveals the beauty of that moment and what it tell us about life.”
Well said. In fact, when people ask me to explain haiku, I often start with the idea of a single photograph. A haiku is like a camera, I say. Its job is not to capture everything. Its job is to capture a fleeting moment that you want to remember because it added meaning, depth or beauty to your life.
And this is, really, the only way to approach this book. If you pick up a copy of Today and Today thinking that you’ve picked up a bedtime story, you’ll probably be disappointed for that is not what it is.
It is, though, a collection of sixteen haiku, all written by Issa, a haiku master who lived in Japan during the 1700s. The haiku are divided into the four seasons and presented with images that illustrate the idea behind each poem. Because the haiku were translated from Japanese, not all of them fit the 5-7-5 construct.
This book would work best with older children and would be a particularly great tool if you were teaching the traditional purpose of haiku.
Poor Issa! After reading this book, your heart will break for him. What a tragic life he led!
First his mother died when he was just three. Then enter nasty stepmother. At the age of 14, his father cast him out, alone and penniless, into the world. And it only gets worse from there. Luckily, Issa had haiku.
Issa, one of Japan’s most beloved haiku masters, wrote over 20,000 haiku in the course of his life. This book presents 33 of them.
These haiku are spaced between portions of text that tell Issa’s life story. In this way, the haiku are easily understood as they seem to relate to what was happening in his life. Pretty pictures also illustrate each haiku. End notes share further detail about a handful of the haiku included.
This book is a beautiful biography that could be used during a unit on haiku, poetry, Japan or famous authors/people. As Issa’s life was quite dramatic, his story would even hold the attention of older students. Very young children would probably have a hard time sitting still for its duration, though, as it is longer than most picture books.
Haiku Lesson Plan (pdf) on author’s web site
spa treatments black jack
poolside sun and oh la la
Vegas here I come
now that I’m so old
it’s hard to say goodbye to
friendships still blooming
Buttering the long green grass
Good enough to eat
Lands on lilac branch in bloom,
Praising restless spring.