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Zen Shorts (Storybook) Hardcover – 1 Mar 2005
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*Starred Review* K-Gr. 3. Like The Three Questions (2002), Muth's latest is both an accessible, strikingly illustrated story and a thought-provoking meditation. Here he incorporates short Buddhist tales, "Zen Shorts," into a story about three contemporary children. One rainy afternoon, a giant panda appears in the backyard of three siblings. Stillwater, the Panda, introduces himself, and during the next few days, the children separately visit him. Stillwater shares an afternoon of relaxing fun with each child; he also shares Zen stories, which give the children new views about the world and about each other. Very young listeners may not grasp the philosophical underpinnings of Stillwater's tales, but even kids who miss the deeper message will enjoy the spare, gentle story of siblings connecting with one another. Lush, spacious watercolors of charming Stillwater and the open neighborhood will entrance children, as will the dramatic black-and-white pictures of the comical animal characters that illustrated Stillwater's Zen stories. Muth doesn't list sources for the tales, but his author's note offers more commentary about Zen. Stillwater's questions will linger (Can misfortune become good luck? What is the cost of anger?), and the peaceful, uncluttered pictures, like the story itself, will encourage children to dream and fill in their own answers. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
A Caldecott Honor Book
* "An accessible, strikingly illustrated story and a thought-provoking meditation." -- Booklist, starred review
* "Every word and image comes to make as perfect a picture book as can be." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"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." -- Publishers Weekly
"Beautifully illustrated in two distinct styles, this book introduces readers to a Zen approach to the world, wrapped in a story about three siblings and their new neighbor, a panda....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
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What I really appreciate about the story is they are not static stories. There's levels to them. And they are not just another reiteration of the same stories you see repeated in children's book time and time again. For example, rather then just talk about being mean, or sharing, or considerate, on story is about a child who wants to play robots with Stillwater. The child tells Stillwater that he will be "the bad guy". So, with some cookies, Stillwater demonstrates that being the bad guy is no fun for himself, or for others, but still agrees to be the bad guy. Then allows the child to decide to play differently by having both robots go on an adventure together, changing the playtime from a conflict oriented imagination, to a cooperative and positive game.
The feel of these books is not a classic story, there is a mundanity to and a flow that provides a very nice change of pace. The Not just how you interact with others, but how you interact with yourself. This should be obvious from the "Zen" in all the titles, but until you have read it (20 times at least) it is hard to appreciate how these books flow and form a story that is both thought provoking for little (and old) minds, and still provide a story that is immersive and childlike.
I sincerely hope Mr. Muth makes more of this story line, and if not, I thank him for these pieces of joy.
The first story stillwater tells is about his Uncle Ry who catches a robber in his house and gives him what he has. The second story Stillwater tells is about luck, somethings that may seem like great luck at first could be bad luck, and bad luck could be good luck. The last story is the story of the monks, one physically carries a woman and the other is carrying a grudge about her.
All of the stories leave room for discussion if you want to go there, or you can simply read the book and let your children absorb what they will. This book left us in a very peaceful state.
The age recommendation is 4 to 8, I think this is appropriate. I think at 6 or above your children will be more prone to abosrb the stories of zen. However, the book is very charming and likeable for your [...].