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Zen Tiesby Jon J. Muth
Synopses & Reviews
Summer has arrived — and so has Koo, Stillwater's haiku-speaking young nephew. And when Stillwater encourages Koo, and his friends Addy, Michael, and Karl to help a grouchy old neighbor in need, their efforts are rewarded in unexpected ways.
Zen Ties is a disarming story of compassion and friendship that reaffirms the importance of our ties to one another.
"Stillwater, the giant panda who taught Zen parables to siblings Karl, Addy and Michael in Zen Shorts, continues to combine his slow-moving grace with genuine spiritual tranquility. This time, Michael faces a daunting spelling bee, and Stillwater, first seen wearing a necktie, introduces the three to Miss Whitaker, an elderly neighbor whose crabby outbursts have frightened them. Stillwater's inward eye sees through her anger to her fear and loneliness. She turns out to be a marvelous spelling coach ('Just like plants, words have roots,' she tells Michael. 'Roots of words can teach you to spell'), and when Michael wins a red ribbon, the pictures show the whole group sharing his victory with their own red ribbons — the 'Zen ties' of the title. (Zentai is Japanese for 'the whole' or 'the entire,' as in 'all of us together.') A subplot featuring Koo, Stillwater's nephew, drifts a bit; he's a cute little panda who punctuates the action with Zen-influenced haiku (and allows Muth another pun: 'Hi, Koo!'). Muth's brush is as sure as ever; Stillwater's big, blunt paws and hunched-over listening posture are irresistible, and Miss Whitaker's delicate face and snow-white hair beautifully counterpoint the vignettes of youthful play. From a religious tradition that makes no theological demands and that will be unfamiliar to most readers, Stillwater offers a model of pure saintliness, and children will instantly respond to him. All ages." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Muth won a Caldecott Honor in 2006 — and should have won the medal — for 'Zen Shorts,' the delightful picture book in which he introduced the giant panda-philosopher Stillwater. (The 'shorts' of the title refers to both Stillwater's boxers and the Zen parables he uses to teach gentle life lessons to siblings Karl, Michael and Addie.) Now Stillwater and the kids return in another pun-happy romp,... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) joined this time by the big panda's mini-me nephew, Koo. Little Koo likes to speak in haiku, which naturally prompts Stillwater to greet him at the train station with a gracious 'Hi, Koo.' And look for those 'Zen ties' not just in the pandas' neckwear but in the kindness Stillwater teaches the children to show toward a grouchy old neighbor. But as in 'Zen Shorts,' it's Muth's watercolors that really make this book. Rich with summery light, airy as the balloons that float through the pages, they're also full of the deadpan humor that pandas somehow just radiate. Check out, in particular, Stillwater and Koo's tai chi routine on the endpapers. Elizabeth Ward can be reached at warde(at symbol)washpost.com." Reviewed by Elizabeth Ward, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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About the Author
Jon J. Muth's watercolor art has been called "quietly life-changing" by the New York Times. He is the author and artist of The Three Questions and the bestselling picture book Zen Shorts, as well as A Family of Poems by Caroline Kennedy, which was a national bestseller. Other works include the graphic novel Moonshadow, and the recently published A Family Christmas. He lives in New York.
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