Book Dads, December 11, 2009 (view all comments by Book Dads)
Zen Shorts is a sequel to the delightful Zen Ties that features the further adventures of Stillwater the Giant Panda. One day Stillwater moves into the neighborhood of the siblings Addy, Michael, and Karl. The next day, Addy goes to visit Stillwater at his house and finds him sitting in the backyard in a tent that was a gift from his Uncle Ry, and tells her a Zen teaching story featuring Uncle Ry that is about generosity and non-attachment. In the following days first Michael and then Karl visit Stillwater, and he shares a story with each of them. By the end of the book, Stillwater’s gentle teaching has brought the siblings closer.
Muth has done a wonderful job of adapting classic Zen teaching stories for a younger audience. Each is told quite briefly with evocative black and white drawings and animal characters that will engage children’s attention. A short Author’s Note at the end of the book explains a little more about Zen and the stories, and parents can find more of these stories for interested children in one of the classic references such as Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. Like a spoonful of sugar, Zen Shorts imparts ancient wisdom about life to children in a painless and charming way.
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worldtravel04, July 5, 2007 (view all comments by worldtravel04)
Join Michael, Addy and Karl as they make friends with their new neighbor, Stillwater, the giant panda. Stillwater is a wise old bear who teaches his young friends with short meditations or ideas to ponder.
A wonderful collection of short stories with beautiful watercolor or pen and ink illustrations. Children will enjoy the interesting pictures and parents will like the quiet wisdom this intelligent bear passes on.
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"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Muth, who has retold traditional stories such as Stone Soup and Tolstoy's The Three Questions, and played up their spiritual elements with his elegant watercolors, here introduces three Zen stories from Japan. He frames the trio of tales within the context of a suburban household. Three siblings befriend a giant panda when his red umbrella blows into their yard. Speaking 'with a slight panda accent,' he introduces himself as Stillwater, and charms Addy and Michael — though Karl, the youngest, is still 'shy around bears he [doesn't] know.' Each day one of the children goes to visit Stillwater, revealing something of him- or herself. The panda chooses an appropriate Zen fable for each child, illustrated with rough-edged, Chinese-style brush-and-ink paintings on duotone pages, to play up the story-within-a-story structure. In the first, Stillwater tells Addy about his Uncle Ry, who disarms a robber by treating him like a guest (older readers will pick up from the closing author's note that 'Uncle Ry' is shorthand for the Zen hermit Ryokan Taigu). In the next, a wise farmer demonstrates that good luck can quickly turn to bad luck and back again (a tale Ed Young also retold in The Lost Horse). In the last, a monk learns how to stop brooding and live in the present. Readers will fall easily into the rhythm of visits to Stillwater and his storytelling sessions, and many more will fall in love with the panda, whose shape and size offer the children many opportunities for cuddling. Ages 4-up." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by Booklist (Starred Review),
"Muth's latest is both an accessible, strikingly illustrated story and a thought-provoking meditation....[T]he peaceful, uncluttered pictures, like the story itself, will encourage children to dream and fill in their own answers."
by School Library Journal,
"Beautifully illustrated in two distinct styles....Appealing enough for a group read-aloud, but also begging to be shared and discussed by caregiver and child, Zen Shorts is a notable achievement."
by The New York Times Book Review,
"Muth's watercolor illustrations...are serene, airy and grounded in ethereal washes of gentle color. The children are satisfyingly childlike in their bearing, and Stillwater's every pose is marked with balance, geometry and lighthearted visual pleasures..."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"Limpidly beautiful watercolors and a wry, puckish gentleness mark these three Zen stories....Every word and image comes to make as perfect a picture book as can be."
When Stillwater the bear moves into the neighborhood, the stories he tells to three siblings teach them to look at the world in new ways.
With graceful art and simple stories that are filled with love and enlightenment, Jon Muth — and Stillwater the bear — presents three ancient Zen tales that are sure to strike a chord in everyone they touch. Full color.
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