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Zen Shorts (Zen)

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  10,548 Ratings  ·  696 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 Addy 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 gracef ...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by Scholastic Press (first published January 1st 2005)
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May 16, 2007 nicole rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Shelves: picture-books
This is a story about a zen philosophy toting giant panda named Stillwater. He shares ancient zen parables with the children he befriends to help them cool their jets. You totally don't have to be a kid to read this. On bad days at work (when we actually have this in stock), I like to pick this off the shelf and read it. It makes problems seem smaller, and dwelling on other people seem a waste of time. Inner peace in like, ten minutes, man!

my favorite selection:


Two traveling monk
Splendid! Muth combines a tale of Stillwater the panda's budding friendship with three children with three classic Zen tales. Stillwater is a wonderful creation, so warm and cozy, so calming, so wise--yet still great fun. Rather like Zen, in fact! ;-> A great introduction to Zen for children, and a delightful tale anyway.
First Second Books
This weekend I picked up a copy of Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth at a library book sale. What a delightful book. I still remember picking it up in bookstore for the first time and smiling my way from cover to cover. This weekend, not only did I re-read it but I passed it around to my friends to read (and smile) through.
Jim Erekson
Feb 21, 2013 Jim Erekson rated it liked it
Shelves: picturebooks
Overtly didactic, I would have liked this book less if we hadn't just had an in-depth discussion about transformative education last night in our semiotics seminar. The power of Zen stories and koans to still the mind and help people to perceive what is up close and cluttering our minds is part of transformation. Without becoming aware of broader forces and trends that work to shape us and boss us around, it can be difficult to transform.

What I enjoy in a transformative experience is the having
Nicolay Hvidsten
Buy this book. Seriously.

You don't read this book - not in the common sense of the word anyway. You fall into it and you don't want to climb back out, much like "accidentally" falling into the ball pit at McDonald's because why should kids have all the fun.

The amazingly beautiful and atmospheric water colours (done by the author himself no less) will draw you in if you let them, and they'll paint an incredible backdrop for the wisdom contained within the stories told by Stillwater, the star of t
Aug 26, 2008 Bryn rated it it was amazing
Genre: Cultural Folktale
Grade: K-6
Caldecott Honor Book

This is a beautifully illistrated narritive of three siblings that become friends with a panda named Stillwater. Each sibling visits the panda and the panda teaches each one a lesson. He tells them stories about his experiences to help him feel better about what is troubling them. After he tells the story, the book changes to a different, more graphic, illustration style and tells a Zen tale related to the story Stillwater had just told. It's
Nadja A.
This is probably the most beautiful picture book I've ever seen. These watercolour illustrations are breath-taking. And the Zen stories are nice too. Highly recommend!
Three years before Po scadooshed Tai Lung, wonder artist/children's author Jon J. Muth won the Caldecott with the introduction of Zen Panda extraordinaire Stillwater.

Muth's Zen Shorts is a beautiful piece, telling tales of love and comradeship, friendship and patience, care and giving. Three siblings find the Zen Panda and listen -- individually -- to his tales of life. They learn lessons, and so do the readers and listeners, without ever being beaten over the head with stick.

And the water colou
Feb 20, 2013 Amy rated it liked it
Shelves: childrens, reviewed
So, this afternoon we finished reading our other two books, and my niece said, "Amy, I have a book we can read! It's called Zen Shorts--see, it's about a panda who wears shorts!"

As entertaining as that story might have been, the story that Zen Shorts actually was was really lovely. The kids enjoyed the panda and his interactions with the kids, and they very much appreciated the pictures. It was a unique and peaceful story.

For me, what drops this from four stars to three is my niece only understo
Apr 07, 2010 Carolynne rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
A deserving Caldecott Honor winner (_The Hello Goodbye Window_ by Norton Juster and illustrated by Chris Raschka was the winner in 2006), Zen Shorts tells the story of three children who encounter Stillwater, a mysterious Panda with a red umbrella, in their back yard. He tells each of them a simple, poignant story which relates subtly to their lives (in the case of Karl, who is angry at his brother, it is more pointed). The stories all come from the Zen tradition, but this is not obvious unless ...more
Lisa Vegan
Mar 04, 2008 Lisa Vegan rated it it was amazing
I actually read Zen Ties first. I highly recommend reading this book first, then Zen Ties. Great introduction to Zen storytelling for young kids. And the paintings are beautiful.
Nov 26, 2010 Susan rated it really liked it
This book had very fun to read little storys, and really buitifull pictures. This book took me on a journey! one of my favorite books are, Zen Shorts. give it a try!
Jan 29, 2012 Cristina rated it it was amazing
Text Summary
Stillwater is a giant panda with meaningful stories to tell. Three siblings: Addie, Michael, and Karl, first discover Stillwater sitting in their backyard, as Stillwater apologetically states that he and his red umbrella have been carried there by the wind. Following their encounter with this giant panda, each of the three children visits Stillwater at his home. On her visit, Addie hears the story of “Uncle Ry and the Moon,” a poor man who gives gifts to a robber. On Michael’s visit,
Laura Noto
Oct 04, 2009 Laura Noto rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Zen Shorts is a thought-provoking picture book for K-3rd readers. Even though the content and themes would be better understood by older readers, all children would be able to enjoy the beautiful pictures and interesting characters. Zen Shorts is about three children who are visited by a panda bear named Stillwater. Each day one of the children go to visit Stillwater with a problem or question. He tells them stories that make the children reconsider their issues and opinions.
Julia Drescher
Three siblings befriend a panda, Stillwater, who teaches them some important life lessons. There are two older children, a boy and a girl, (maybe 8-10) and a little boy who is likely 4-6. They each spend a day with Stillwater doing something unique, and he ends up sharing short Zen stories with each of the children. The story that he tells to each child, and the activity they each engage in with Stillwater, are unique to each child.

The illustrations are beautifully done in watercolors. They are
Jan 30, 2009 Dolly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
Great book with three short little stories that are good teaching points for Zen. The main character, a panda named Stillwater, is a Zen master and befriends some neighbors, telling them in turn each a story.

It's a nicely illustrated book, with the Zen stories in monochromatic contrast to the background tale. Our girls enjoyed this story and I loved it!

16 September 2015 update: We pulled this one out of a box of books from our recent move and I just had to read it one more time before we donate
Alexis Caudill
Sep 12, 2016 Alexis Caudill rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-summaries
1. Book summary, in your own words (3 pts)
Zen Shorts is a Caldecott Honor Book. It is a book about a Panda named Stillwater and three siblings (Addy, Michael, and Karl). Stillwater spends time with each sibling and with each sibling he tells them a short story to meditate on.
2. Grade level, interest level, lexile (1 pt)
I think this book would be great for PreK-3rd grade students. It is a cute little book full of some really great stories with really great morals. Its words are very easy to read.
Robyn Schaefer
Feb 03, 2010 Robyn Schaefer rated it it was ok
The three short stories in this collection, as the title would imply, move rather slowly. In a very “Zen-like” manner, a giant panda shares philosophical stories with the three kids who live next door. Although the two older children warmed up to the curious panda immediately, the youngest boy was “shy around bears he didn’t know.” That was the only humorous line in the story, the rest took a more solemn, contemplative tone.

The stories reveal basic truths about human nature and can lead to a ri
Angela Bailey
Title / Author / Publication Date:
Zen Shorts. / Jon Muth. / 2005.

Genre: Fiction.

Format: Picturebook - print.

Plot summary:
"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" (NoveList).

Considerations or precautions for readers advisory:
brothers & sisters, Buddhism, pandas, folktales

Review citation:
"The tales invite the children to consider the world and their perceptions from a different angle; for Karl, t
L-Angelica Herrera-Vest
Personal response: Karl, Addy and Michael meet Stillwater, a giant Panda who teaches them life truths through stories (short meditations). The three stories Panda tells the children makes them reconsider why they do the things they do. In other words he is challenging them to reexamine their habits and ideas.In the story Sillwater tells Addy she learns it is better to give than to recieve. Even if you think you have nothing to give, there is always something, and the best thing to give can be fr ...more
Christopher Cordry
There are at least two reasons why children's books need to be at least as good as grown-up books. The first is in order to help the kids develop good taste. The second and more important reason is that as an adult, you read these books over and over again, every day, and if they're not really damn good books, you're going to hang yourself from the ceiling fan sooner or later.

That said, this is one of the better children's books in our collection. It's one of my daughter's favorites, and I've r
Oct 31, 2009 Liz rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: kids ages 4+
Shelves: lis-565
This 2006 Caldecot Honor book is pure beauty, from the water color illustrations to the wise stories. Karl, Abby and Michael meet Stillwater on a rainy day in their backyard. The next day Abby went to visit Stillwater. They share some cake while Stillwater tells Abby a story about gift giving. Michael visits Stillwater the next day and as they sit high up in a tree Stillwater tells Michael luck. Karl visits next and brings with him a whole pool full of swimming toys even though Michael told him ...more
Mason Stewart
Oct 01, 2014 Mason Stewart rated it it was amazing
Love it! A giant panda named Stillwater moves into a suburban neighborhood where siblings Addy, Michael and Karl live. At first the siblings were startled at the large panda but after getting to know him a bit they change their mind. Each of the siblings are going through some type of anxiety so the panda tells each one of them a story accordingly. Each one of these classic Zen stories delivers a poignant message. Absolutely stellar watercolor illustrations match perfectly with the mood of the b ...more
Grace Laperuto
Jun 07, 2016 Grace Laperuto rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy-sci-fi
This book is just about 11 years old, but the author is still publishing books, and very well should be. I consider this book to be fantasy. A librarian in a Children's library told me it was considered "animal fantasy."

This story is about a giant Panda bear named Stillwater moving into three children's neighborhood, and he tells amazing stories. They are simple and short, but encompass the teachings of Buddha and Buddism. Young children will learn about love, kindness, and compassion.

The illus
Jun 22, 2015 Maggie rated it it was amazing
Caldecott Honor (2006), Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Children's Illustrated (2006)

At first I thought the title referred to the panda wearing shorts on the cover, but then it became clear that folded inside this story are other short stories that help Stillwater's children friends reach zen mindsets about their very real but everyday problems. shifting in the illustration style, from soft watercolors for the children and Stillwater, to harsher line drawings with lots of contrast in the z
Nick Klagge
Sep 08, 2016 Nick Klagge rated it really liked it
Nice picture book with pretty illustrations and three short zen parables, told in a style that I think should be accessible to kids. My favorite is the good luck/bad luck story where things happen to a farmer and his friends keep saying "what good luck!" or "what bad luck!", and he keeps deferring judgment and the goodness/badness of the overall consequences keeps changing. (As the book notes, this story has its origins in Daoism and predates zen.) Seems like it would be a good book to share wit ...more
Oct 04, 2015 Marie rated it liked it
Shelves: rll-539
Beautiful lessons along with beautiful illustrations!
One day Stillwater the panda turns up in the backyard of siblings Addy, Michael and Karl. Separately each sibling appear on Stillwater's porch and the panda tells to each a story based on Buddhist teachings to help them handle situations in their lives.

Grade levels: K-6
Uses in the classroom: Discussions about feelings, making predictions based on illustrations, characters and events. Can also be used for art and science.
Chelsea (Cat Litterary)
Sep 10, 2015 Chelsea (Cat Litterary) rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: children, preteens, teens, ya, young adults, adults
I bought this for a university course and scoffed a bit when I realized it was a picture book. When my professor said that we have a book of short stories to read, I imagined a book of 20-page-long stories and not beautifully illustrated parables involving a giant, talking panda. Not even five pages in, I started smiling and I didn’t stop smiling until the end of the book.
Jul 16, 2016 Susan rated it it was amazing
This and its companion "Zen Ties" are my six-year-old's new favorites for bedtime. He's asked for them pretty much every night since I first got them in May. He says they make him feel calm inside. :) They are peaceful and calm and teach good moral lessons to boot. Definitely recommended.
Hannah Jane
Nov 23, 2014 Hannah Jane rated it it was amazing
Shelves: easy-fiction
My ears will forever be searching for a panda accent.

Also, I have been carrying things for years that have already been set down.

Lastly, being chucked into a wading pool via panda paw is at the top of my bucket list.
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Jon J. Muth is an American comic artist. His works include J. M. DeMatteis' graphic novel Moonshadow, Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: The Wake (along with Michael Zulli, Charles Vess), Mike Cary's Lucifer: Nirvana and Swamp Thing: Roots. Muth has gone on to an award-winning career as a children's book writer and illustrator. He received a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators for his illustration ...more
More about Jon J. Muth...

Other Books in the Series

Zen (4 books)
  • Zen Ties
  • Zen Ghosts
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