Monday, October 18, 2010

Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth and Zen Ties by Jon J. Muth

"It is easy to believe that we are each waves and forget we are also the ocean," writes Jon J. Muth in his "Author's Note" in the back of his beautifully illustrated children's book Zen Ties, a sequel to his other wonderful book Zen Shorts. I found both on my nightstand when I returned from my trip to Texas. Bonnie knows what I like.

Zen Shorts features a large and wise panda named Stillwater who befriends three children in what appears to be an average American town. He invites them up the hill to his uncluttered house for tea. Each time they come he tells them a short story drawn from Buddhist literature that helps one of the children solves a personal problem and learn a valuable lesson for the future. In Zen Ties, Stillwater is joined by his pint-sized nephew Koo, who speaks in haiku. After he meets Koo at the train station, Stillwater introduces the small panda to his friends, and together they slowly and carefully befriend a lonely old lady who has always frightened the children.

Throughout both books, Stillwater gentle guides his friends to greater awareness of the feelings of others and the benefits of cooperation. I imagine that teachers, librarians, and parents appreciate these attractive books that are positive without being overly sweet or preachy. Even more important, I hope young children are charmed by the large but soft-looking panda and his playful friends. I know that many libraries and homes have these wonderful books.

Muth, Jon J. Zen Shorts. Scholastic Press, 2005. ISBN 0439339111

Muth, Jon J. Zen Ties. Scholastic Press, 2008. ISBN 9780439634250

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