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Zen Shorts

(Zen #1)

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  12,547 ratings  ·  867 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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Average rating 4.24  · 
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 ·  12,547 ratings  ·  867 reviews

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Apr 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The lessons in Zen Shorts instill peace and calm. Stillwater is like a best friend, older brother, and wise grandfather all in one as he shares his knowledge. A book to come back to time and time again.
One day the panda Stillwater, shows up in the yard of Addy, Michael and Karl. They become friends and one by one they go to visit Stillwater. Each of them have a problem of a kind and Stillwater tells them a little Zen teaching story that relates and helps them deal with the problem. I have heard the last 2 stories and not the first.

There is ‘Uncle Ry and the Moon’, ‘the Farmer’s Luck’ and ‘a Heavy Load’. Each of these are ancient stories used to hone one’s ability to act with intuition without
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
After reading Zen Shorts I can't stop wondering what does a slight panda accent sound like?

Read and share this book because I think everyone could use a gentle giant panda in their life. I must credit my friend Jasmine who gifted this lovely keeper to me. It's the perfect birthday present for a budding watercolorist like myself.

(Plus it's from Scholastic which brings back many happy childhood memories)
May 16, 2007 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
Lisa Vegan
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.
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Peaceful, simple, and quietly thoughtful. What I needed after a loooooooonng meeting.
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. ...more
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!
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
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone Looking for Children's Stories Featuring Zen Buddhism
When Stillwater the panda arrives in their backyard, clutching a red umbrella and speaking with a slight "panda accent," Addy, Michael and Karl aren't sure just what to make of their new neighbor. But as each of them find their way to Stillwater's house, they discover that this tranquil and wise bear has a gift for telling Zen tales that give them a better understanding of their own experiences.

The three embedded Zen stories, dealing with generosity and not getting too attached to material posse
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 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
Apr 07, 2010 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
Ginger Bensman
In this visually beautiful and contemplative children’s book, Addy, Michael, and Karl meet Stillwater, a giant panda who is very wise in the ways of Zen. Thus begins a book of gentle teachings and friendship. The watercolor illustrations are works of art and the taste of Zen imparted along the way will soothe the souls of both children and adults. Highly recommended.
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A lovely book that includes 3 Zen classic stories. Excited to read this over and over again to our daughter.
Aug 26, 2008 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
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 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
What a beautiful, serene, and enlightening book!

Jon J. Muth's watercolor illustrations are gorgeous:

And the three short Zen stories (i.e., Zen shorts) accompanied by ink illustrations are profound:

However, I am not entirely sure how I feel about the depiction of a Buddhist monk as a panda (he even has "a slight panda accent"!), which emphasizes the exotic otherness of a person from a different racial/cultural/religious background.
Kaethe Douglas
Stillwater is very appealing to panda fans. And their parents.
2008 December 28
I'm amused by the constantly shifting scale of Stillwater, but the PandaBat enjoys the art, the story, and the koans. Zen for kids.
Mar 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book found a place on my shelves because it is so good. I don't think of it as a children's book, but they'd like it, too. The gentle humor (in text and art), the lovable bear, the stories of wisdom ... a comforting read.
I love pandas and so I just had to love this book. Very beautiful pictures and a nice introduction to Zen for kids.
Viv JM
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favourite ever children's books. It is wise and beautiful and gentle and profound.
Sarah Booth
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wonderful Zen stories for children or adults who want a little gentle instruction. Sweet and generous.
Hitessh Panchal
Apr 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Loved the Shorts !!!
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Folklore; e-book

Zen Shorts is a children's picture book about three children, Karl, Michael and Addy who receive enlightening personal truths, specific to each of the children, from a gentle yet wise panda bear. There is a sweet pattern of three's in this book; three children, three stories from Stillwater, the panda, (one for each child) and three days over which the children are given wisdom to have success over difficulties in their lives. The knowledge given to the children is rich, yet grac
Ana LibrariAna
An adorable and tranquil book about a panda bear named Stillwater moving in to a new neighbourhood and next door to three siblings. Through stories- zen stories, he teaches each of them to look at the world in new ways.
Zen is a Japanese word that simply means meditation. "Zen shorts" are short meditations- ideas to puzzle over. They have no goal, but they often challenge us to reexamine our habits, fears, and desires.
Stillwater teaches Addie about material good and kindness; he teaches Michael
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book written for children but anyone could get the three messages from the short stories that are shared by wise Panda who is named STILLWATER! Lesson 1: Nature's beauty will always far exceed any material object. Lesson 2: Good luck and bad luck are all mixed up. Lesson 3:
Dhen Dhen
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gifts, library
Awww that was so adorable!
The pictures were so gorgeous.
The stories were great; they were not meant to change lives overnight, but will give you something to think about.

I would have given it a 5 star if the author put a little bit of effort in ending it.
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
A charming very short book with Zen stories. These are the kind of little stories that would make for great animations for kids and anybody looking to learn more about Zen. I only wish the book was longer.
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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

Other books in the series

Zen (4 books)
  • Zen Ties
  • Zen Ghosts
  • Zen Socks

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