Zen Ghosts
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Zen Ghosts (Zen)

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  614 ratings  ·  99 reviews
It's Halloween.
The trees are ablaze in fiery reds. Excited children don colorful costumes. And there's mystery and fun around every corner!
When Addy, Michael, and Karl finish trick-or-treating, their bags are brimming with treats. But the fun isn't over yet. Their good friend Stillwater the panda has one more special surprise in store for them. A mysterious visitor is...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Scholastic Press (first published August 1st 2010)
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The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda WilliamsThe Hallo-wiener by Dav PilkeyThe Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree by Stan BerenstainHappy Halloween by Othen Donald Dale CummingsScary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Best Halloween Picture Books
70th out of 221 books — 265 voters
Zen Shorts by Jon J. MuthZen Ties by Jon J. MuthStone Soup by Jon J. MuthCome On, Rain! by Karen HesseThe Three Questions by Jon J. Muth
Best of Jon J. Muth
6th out of 29 books — 4 voters

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Community Reviews

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”When our hearts are taken in two different directions, where are we?”

Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth is one of my all-time favorite books. So my first thought when I spotted Zen Ghosts in the bookstore was—Gah! How did this slip by me?

From the very first flip and step into this story, my imagination latched on to the warmth and wonder of the illustrations. Picture after picture will catch your eye and never let go. Rich, warm autumn colors, leaves, and shadows set the mood for a full moon Halloween o...more
The wonderful Stillwater the panda returns for a third time with another picture book filled with Zen. In this book, Stillwater spends time with the children as they prepare to go trick-or-treating. Then after they are finished, he brings them to a place where a panda tells them the story of Senjo. In the story, Senjo is in love with her best friend from childhood. But when her father gets ills, she is forced to marry a wealthy man. Ochu, the man she loves, leaves the village because he cannot b...more
Stillwater the panda returns to his friends, the three young children, as they prepare for Halloween. (I love that the one little boy can't decide if he wants to be a pirate or an owl and that Stillwater tells him he can be both--this is such a great foreshadowing of the theme of this story!) After the children go trick-or-treating, they meet Stillwater for a ghost story and Stillwater tells them a Zen Koan (a teaching story with no "right or wrong" answer but something for the student to intern...more
This might possibly be my favorite in the "Zen" series.

Addy, Michael, and Karl are changing into their Halloween costumes when they think they see a ghost...but it is their good friend and mentor, Stillwater. Stillwater invites them to come over for something special after the children are finished trick-or-treating. Once the children are settled at Stillwater's home, he begins to tell them the story of "Senjo and Her Soul". It is a tragic love story about two best friends that grow up together...more
Lisa Vegan
Dec 30, 2010 Lisa Vegan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people ages 8 all the way up who enjoy philosophical questioning; Halloween reading
Well, I do think that Muth really stretches the limits (of understanding?) with his children’s picture books, but I do like them.

I liked this one very much, although the Halloween story combined with the Buddhist koan was a peculiar combination for me.

For school aged children, I think this book could get some interesting discussions started. There is an author’s note at the end about koans, etc. and it’s definitely written for adults and older children.

I adored the illustrations. The style chang...more
Zen Ghosts is a Halloween-night book, and as such the color palette is darker than Zen Shorts or Zen Ties, lovely deep blues and inky blacks and purple-greys, though there's also autumnal red and yellow and orange, with occasional flashes of grass-green. Stillwater the panda, already dressed as a ghost, visits his neighbors just before Halloween to tell them to meet up with him after trick-or-treating because he knows someone who will tell them a ghost story. Addy, Karl, and Michael comply, and...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Stillwater (great name for a Zen panda!) is back as the children prepare for Halloween. Stillwater tells then a ghost story which is really a koan (Zen story designed to get you to think). I loved the koan/ghost story about duality, which ended with an unexpected twist. I think I'd have liked the whole book better without the Stillwater framework, though. Jon Muth's note at the end of the book explaining the history of this story and what koans are and how they are used was interesting. His expl...more
Angela Bailey
Title / Author / Publication Date:
Zen Ghosts. / Jon Muth. / 2010.

Genre: Fiction.

Format: Picturebook - print.

Plot summary:
"On Halloween night, Stillwater the giant panda tells Karl, Addy, and Michael a spooky and unusual story. Based on a Zen koan" (NoveList).

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

Review citation:
"Muth's artistic gifts are so breathtaking that they will draw in even those whose attention spans are not at f...more
Nov 01, 2010 Dolly rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
I just love the Zen stories by Jon J. Muth, featuring Stillwater and friends. The stories are very interesting and also teach a little bit about Zen Buddhism. The illustrations are softly rendered and just beautiful! I really enjoyed this tale.
This is such an amazing children's story that any one of any age can enjoy. The story is very beautiful with such splendidly colorful pages that get more and more fantastic with each page you turn. The story itself is mesmerizing and enchanting. I have read one of these books by Jon J. Muth and I have to say that I loved both completely. They are great books to collect and save over the many years that are to come and go.

You won't be disappointed in these. They may be a bit wordy for younger kid...more
A very thought provoking story. Unexpected
John Pappas
I have been a fan of Jon Muth from his earlier comics days with his work on “Meltdown: Wolverine and Havoc” and the epic “Moonshadow” series. Fantasy writer Micheal Moorcock said of Moonshadow

”This is an outstanding graphic tale, told at a level of literary and visual sophistication which introduced new standards and aspirations to the genre”

Recently his storybook fiction has been equally stirring and eminently life-changing for me as both a former after-school librarian and a massive fan of z...more
On Halloween, Stillwater the panda, who dons a spooky costume and mask, promises his human friends Addy, Michael, and Karl a spine-tingling ghost story to be told by a mysterious storyteller.

The storyteller--who looks remarkably like Stillwater--tells the children an unforgettable ancient Zen story about a girl named Senjo who hopes to marry Ochu, the boy next door.

Senjo's parents have different plans for her future. They want her to marry a more prosperous man than Ochu--someone who will care...more
From the same author who brought us Zen Shorts and Zen Ties, comes another story about dual nature of being human. After a fruitful night of trick-or-treating, siblings Addy, Michael, and Karl meet their friend, Stillwater, the Zen Buddhist panda, at his house for a ghost story. The story is to be told by a mystery storyteller. The storyteller (who looks an awful lot like Stillwater) tells of two friends, Ochu and Senjo, who fall in love. When Senjo’s family arranges for her to marry another man...more
I’ve been collecting some texts to help a teacher use to begin students thinking about the question “who am I?” This particular book got my attention because it is about Halloween, and a particularly interesting show of Halloween spirit and everything which connections to that holiday. But, it’s oh so much more. There are stories from the Buddha that are called Koans, and Stillwater, the panda whom you’ve met in other Zen books by Muth, takes the children on a journey after trick or treating to...more
Halley Todd
Zen Ghosts is a masterfully illustrated, slightly spooky ghost story. It is Halloween, and the panda Stillwater has a special visitor for Addie, Karl, and Michael. A masterful storyteller has a ghost story (which is actually a Zen koan) for them after they are finished trick or treating. The illustrations have wonderful pops of colors that accentuate the fall setting. The reds and golds seem to find their way on every page. The lines in the drawings are exquisite, and subtly direct the eyes of...more
Whole And
Be ready to introduce yourself and your children to a koan, a question that can only be answered by oneself. It's a bit abstract but it seems the young ones have an easier time processing the concept of the higher self and the separated self than some of the adults that might read this story.

Jon J. Muth effortlessly draws us in to this tale of two young children who play and grow together and eventually fall in love. Forced to make a decision, Senjo decides to leave her family who have arranged...more
Kathy Cowley
Zen Ghosts starts with a panda bear Zen ghost named Stillwater arriving at the door. The kids already know Stillwater (apparently from the books Zen Shorts and Zen Ties, which I haven't read) and they discuss their Halloween costumes and decide to meet after trick or treating for a ghost story.

When they meet, Stillwater takes them to his house and tells them the story Senjo and her Soul are Separated which was originally written down by Master Wu-men Hui-hai, a Chinese Buddhist monk who lived fr...more
Jon J. Muth's books have become a favorite of mine. The illustrations give a sense of peace, but they are still full of life. The author is both the writer and illustrator. The story is based on a "koan" which are basically questions that you have to answer for yourself. These appeal directly to the intuitive part of human consciousness, not the intellect. The story is an adaptation from a Chinese story titled "Senjo and her Soul are Separated".

In this book the Giant Panda, Stillwater, takes Ad...more
Jennifer Rayment
Jake's Review: This book is really cool. I have never read anything like this before. It's like something Jason would read to us for our Karate Class. The illustrations are really cool and different. I think even Jesse would like the pictures, but don't let him touch it, because you know how he is with books (mom's note: sniff, sniff I know). Wicked ghost story within the main story. I liked that Stillwater also enjoyed candy like us kids, made him less serious. The book is definitely for younge...more
It's Halloween and Addy, Michael and Karl are getting their costumes ready for trick or treating. Their friend, Stillwater, shows up and tells them that after trick or treating if they wait by the stone wall he will take them to a storyteller.
Once trick or treating is over, the three friends wait. Then Stillwater comes and takes them to the storyteller, who will tell them a very ghostly story full of wonder.

I wasn't sure what to expect with Zen Ghosts. I knew that it looked interesting and I tho...more
S.N. Arly
This is a wonderful not-scary ghost story. Perfect for younger children who may find ghosts and monsters a bit much. On the surface, it may seem like it is simply a calm Halloween tale between friends. But like the first in the series, Zen Ghosts has a subtle depth and asks questions you have to answer for yourself. We've found it a great discussion piece.

We've had Zen Shorts, the first book in this series, since before my 6-year-old was born, and we've been reading it to him since he was a baby...more
Exquisitely illustrated and skillfully narrated, adults and children will read this story over and over, and not just on Halloween (though the story does take place on Halloween). Muth's follow-up to Zen Shorts follows three trick-or-treating siblings on Halloween night who are regaled with a ghost story from their panda bear companion, Stillwater. I don't want to spoil the tale by telling it myself, but I will say that this ghost story will raise the hair on the back of your neck whenever you h...more
This is a surprisingly thought-provoking book that delves into duality of the soul. Really. I thought it would just be a ghost story, but as with most of Jon J. Muth's books, there is plenty of material for contemplation for all of it's seeming simplicity. Also, the illustrations are fantastic.
Judy Desetti
Loved this one. I have the others in the series: Zen Shorts, Zen Ties. Each can stand by themselves. They are wonderful as read alouds.

Kids love the main character, Stillwater, a large panda bear. In this book Stillwater experiences Halloween. He joins the kids in their fun and as always beautifully interweaves a zen story.

This zen story tells a story about a girl who wants to marry her sweetheart but her dad is forcing her into an arranged marriage. The whole story gives some insight into tre...more
Mrs. Knott
Not my favorite of the Zen series. It would be interesting to see what older students would have to say about the story. I did appreciate the Author's Notes at the end - I think it brings some clarification to the story.
SO LOVELY. The illustrations are overwhelming beautiful (something anyone who looks at Muth's work is used to), but this time they're also funnier (the running jack-o-lanterns and actual floating ghosts mixed in amongst the scene of kids trick-or-treating makes you take at least a second look at the pages to try to decide what's real and what isn't). The story feels a bit abrupt, and I don't LOVE that I get more explanation from the afterword than I do from the story itself (or from Stillwater),...more
Maria Burel
Muth’s stories are picture books for older readers. They tend to have a thought-provoking message, and more complex storylines. Zen Ghosts is no different. Stillwater Panda returns, along with Addy, Michael and Karl (all characters from the original Zen Shorts and Zen Ties). This time, he shares the story of Senjo and Her Soul Are Separated, a tale about a young woman named Senjo who is forced away from her true love, Ochu, in order to marry another. And yet Senjo manages to find her way back to...more
At first, I thought that this was a fun story...but it seemed quite different from Zen Shorts and Zen Ties. Maybe I wasn't in a very philosophical mood at the moment, but the deeper meaning of this story eluded me. I really enjoyed the author's note at the end, though, as he first explained the origin of the ghost story and then talked about human's duality...how we act different and are different with different people... the way we are at school, versus home, versus with friends, etc. This coul...more
I picked up this book because of the illustrations, and the other Zen books. I adore Jon J Muth's watercolor illustrations. They are completely amazing and bring the characters to life and this book was no exception. The story was pretty straight-forward and offered an interesting myth/riddle that I hadn't heard before. It might be a little too cryptic for young children, but the author's note at the back gave it more detail and foundation. I'd recommend.

*Taken from my book reviews blog: http://...more
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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...
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