Halley Todd's Reviews > Zen Ghosts

Zen Ghosts by Jon J. Muth
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's review
Oct 16, 2011

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bookshelves: animals, buddhism, si-624-reviews, picture-books, halloween, international, deep-thinking

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 the viewer to pay attention to certain details on the pages. The brush and ink during the Zen koan, in contrast, are muted grey-scale with a burst of blue color from time to time, in order to add mysteriousness to the tale. While the drawings are captivating, the narrative could be stronger. There were some spots where I could barely see the text due the darkness of the background. As for the story, the transitions were a bit jerky. Younger children may not understand the point of the Zen koan without some explanation from a story-teller. Older children could use it as a model text in order to perhaps create their own Zen koans. The author does include a note explaining the koan, and where he learned about it. This beautiful illustrations take over and kind of leave the plot of the story behind. This book is recommended as an additional purchase for libraries, unless you need some international texts, and is recommended for readers ages 5-8, or if used as a model text, for readers ages 9-12.

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