When Stillwater, a giant panda carrying a red umbrella and speaking with a “slight panda accent,” moves into Addy, Michael, and Karl’s neighborhood, he comes offering friendship and enlightening stories in Jon J. Muth’s Zen Shorts, a 2006 Caldecott Honor Book.
As Zen Shorts unfolds, each child visits with Stillwater who tells the child a short story. Addy learns about Stillwater’s poor Uncle Ry who gives his only robe to a robber. Stillwater tells Michael the story of a farmer who knows that luck is not always good or bad. Finally, the youngest child Karl hears the story of a monk who carries a burden far too long. Muth concludes with an author’s note explaining the concept of Zen and the origins of the stories featured in the book.
Zen Shorts is an accessible introduction to Zen that includes a wonderful mix of watercolors and ink drawings. The illustrations showing Stillwater’s interaction with the children are bright and colorful watercolors, while the illustrations for Stillwater’s stories are black and white ink drawings. The illustrations are vivid and complement the contemplative nature of Stillwater’s stories.
Readers who enjoy Zen Shorts may want to check out Muth’s follow up books, Zen Ties and Zen Ghosts.
Check the WRL catalog for Zen Shorts.