(NS) Brea M's Reviews > Zen Shorts
by Jon J. Muth
by Jon J. Muth
Jon Muth’s Zen Shorts is about Stillwater the whimsical panda who meets a family of three children. The children found him in their backyard where he was retrieving his lost umbrella. Each of the children visits Stillwater on their own. During the visit, Stillwater shares an old story that teaches each child a lesson. Muth’s watercolor drawings are bright and cheery during Stillwater and the children’s interactions. When Stillwater tells his stories to the children, the illustrations are black and white. They stand out from the regular text because of their black and white simplicity. Upon reading the author’s notes, one can gain interesting background knowledge. Zen is the Japanese word meaning meditation. So, Zen Shorts, are short meditations or ideas to puzzle over. Stillwater encourages the children to think about life. The stories he tells are based on real Zen Buddhist literature. The lessons behind each story might be difficult for younger readers but are still enjoyable to hear. Older readers would be able to discuss the lessons and possibly apply them to their own lives. For example, Stillwater tells the tale titled A Heavy Load. The message of this tale is to let things go, and not “carry” anger or hard feelings. That concept can be understood by younger children but would be especially meaningful for older elementary children, who begin to hold grudges toward friends and family members.
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