Cover image for Yugen
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Seven Stories Press, [2018]
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : illustrations ; 26 cm
Illustrations, simple text, and haiku reveal a young boy's longing and remembrance of his mother.
Added Author:


Material Type
Call Number
Children's Book Pict Bk Reibs
Children's Book Pict Bk Reibs
Children's Book Pict Bk Reibs
Children's Book Pict Bk Reibs

On Order



Yugen is the story of a boy remembering his mother, told in haiku and pictures, a book of longing and remembrance that is unequalled in its beauty and poetic simplicity. Yugen is not just a nickname for the main character, it is also a profound concept in Asian societies that points to the mystery and beauty of the universe and of human suffering. Yugen, the second collaboration between Caldecott-winning illustrator Ed Young and Mark Reibstein, after their award-winning 2008 debut, Wabi Sabi, beautifully captures a boy's sadness, but also his mindfulness and wonder.

Author Notes

Mark Reibstein is an English teacher and writer who has lived in New York, California, Hawaii, Japan and Thailand. While living in Kyoto, he met a cat named Wabi Sabi, and they remained very close friends for ten years. The result was a book written by Mark and illustrated by Ed Young, called Wabi Sabi that has amazed readers everywhere since it's publication in 2008 and was named A New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book.

Ed Young is a renowned illustrator and writer of children's picture books. Born on November 28, 1931, in Tientsin, China, he moved to the US as a young man, where he worked at an advertising agency before illustrating his first book, The Mean Mouse and Other Mean Stories by Janice May Urdry, in 1962. Since then he has illustrated over eighty children's books, seventeen of which he has also written. Throughout his long career he has received over fifty awards and honors, including the Caldecott Medal in 1990 for Lon Po Po, his retelling of a Chinese version of "Little Red Riding Hood," and Caldecott Honors for The Emperor and the Kite (1967) and Seven Blind Mice (1992). He has been nominated twice for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international recognition given to children's book authors and illustrators for their contribution to children's literature. His books frequently draw on folklore from Chinese,
Native American, Indian, Persian, and other cultures, and he uses a variety of media, including pencil, pastel, ink, collage, cut paper, photographs, and found materials. He lives in Westchester County, New York, with his two daughters and two cats.

Reviews 3

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-Having collaborated on the award-winning Wabi Sabi, Reibstein and Young return here to examine a mother and son bond. "Yugen" is both a term of endearment for protagonist Eugene and a word encompassing "the subtle and profound.the sad beauty of human suffering," according to an author's note. Written from the child's perspective, the haiku describe how Yugen's mother held him when it was cold, placed blankets under the cherry tree so they could watch the petals "fall like snow," and invented imaginary jaunts to Japan as they climbed into a "deep hot bath." Each spread presents one haiku in the Japanese style-a single vertical line without periods. Characterized by sensory images and an atmosphere of fleeting joy, they are bordered on the verso by warm, textured art with the look of papyrus. This also becomes the canvas for Young's charcoal scenes on the recto. At times, the strong figural outlines evoke Mary Cassatt; others are softly blurred, without features, or they emerge from negative space. When the mother is "gone again," reunion seems more tenuous; Yugen communes with his cat while undertaking familiar rituals. Sensitive older readers will respond to his wistful yearning, feeling the pleasure and pain of memory that accompanies love and separation. VERDICT A gorgeously crafted, complex work. A strong choice for -robust poetry collections.-Wendy Lukehart, -District of Columbia Public Library © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Yugen," as the child narrator of this haunting story is called by his mother, is a Japanese term that means "subtle and profound." In their second collaboration, Young and Reibstein (Wabi Sabi) embody that concept through haiku and quiet images that reflect on presence and absence: "I'm Eugene-/ 'Yugen' to my mom,/ who held me tight/ when the wind/ blew cold." When the child's mother is away in Japan (where "everyone stops work/ to watch/ cherry petals fall"), she and Eugene look at the same star so that, "seeing it together,/ we'd be close,/ though far." Young accompanies the solitary verses with shadowy charcoal depictions of mother, child, and a cat companion set against scratchy, weathered yellow backgrounds. The collaborators offer a stirring and graceful expression of love, loss, and quiet longing. Ages 5-9. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Subtly rhyming haiku relate the poignant story, told from a child's viewpoint, of a mother who leaves home, returns, and leaves again. Both the poetry and illustrations reveal the love between the mother and son. When they are together, they watch blossoms drift down from the cherry trees and spend evenings admiring the moon and sharing warm baths. When she goes to Japan the first time without her son, the two agree to pick a star and think of the other, which seems to shorten the distance between them. The love connecting the two is obvious, which makes the void she leaves behind heartbreaking and the boy's confusion and sorrow palpable. In a naive fantasy, when one of his cats disappears, the boy imagines the creature has gone in search of his mother. Young's illustrations, which appear to have been created with charcoal on textured paper, are mostly blurred outlines without facial features or many details, and the text and pictures skillfully combine to portray the emotions of a small boy who is left to wonder if his absent mother will ever return. The author's note defines the Japanese word yugen as subtle and profound, which will be how readers describe their feelings about this second collaboration from Reibstein and Young, after Wabi Sabi (2008).--Maryann Owen Copyright 2018 Booklist