Synopses & Reviews
"Michael," said Karl. "There's a really big bear in the backyard."
This is how three children meet Stillwater, a giant panda who moves into the neighborhood and tells amazing tales. To Addie he tells a story about the value of material goods. To Michael he pushes the boundaries of good and bad. And to Karl he demonstrates what it means to hold on to frustration.
With graceful art and simple stories that are filled with love and enlightenment, Jon Muth and Stillwater the bear present three ancient Zen tales that are sure to strike a chord in everyone they touch.
"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.)
"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." Booklist (Starred Review)
"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." School Library Journal
"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..." The New York Times Book Review
"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." Kirkus Reviews
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.
About the Author
Jon J Muth has written and illustrated many enchanting picture books, including his Caldecott Honor Book ZEN SHORTS and its sequel, the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling picture book ZEN TIES. Other beloved titles from Jon include THE THREE QUESTIONS, GERSHON'S MONSTER by Eric Kimmel, and THE CHRISTMAS MAGIC by Lauren Thompson. Muth lives in upstate New York with his wife and five children.