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Cuentos Zen
Jon J. Muth
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Cuentos Zen (Zen)

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  11,653 Ratings  ·  754 Reviews
When Stillwater, a giant panda, moves into Addy, Michael, and Karl's neighborhood, he tells them the most amazing stories!

He tells Addy the tale of a poor man who gives gifts to a robber. He tells Michael of a farmer who knows that luck can be neither judged nor predicted. And to Karl he tells the tale of a monk who carries the weight of a burden long past.

With vibrant wa
Paperback, 40 pages
Published 2006 by Scholastic, Inc. (first published January 1st 2005)
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May 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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!
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
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
Apr 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
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.
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.
Viv JM
This is one of my favourite ever children's books. It is wise and beautiful and gentle and profound.
Aug 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Nov 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Introducing the idea of zen to children.
Dhen Dhen
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good book that teaches valuable lessons.
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Muth's Zen books are really lovely, beautifully illustrated with great stories for kids. Highly recommend!
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,
Jan 30, 2009 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
Laura Noto
Oct 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Alexis Caudill
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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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
  • Zen Socks
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