Reviews for Zen Shorts
Booklist Reviews 2005 March #1
/*Starred Review*/ K-Gr. 3. Like The Three Questions (2002), Muth's latest is both an accessible, strikingly illustrated story and a thought-provoking meditation. Here he incorporates short Buddhist tales, "Zen Shorts," into a story about three contemporary children. One rainy afternoon, a giant panda appears in the backyard of three siblings. Stillwater, the Panda, introduces himself, and during the next few days, the children separately visit him. Stillwater shares an afternoon of relaxing fun with each child; he also shares Zen stories, which give the children new views about the world and about each other. Very young listeners may not grasp the philosophical underpinnings of Stillwater's tales, but even kids who miss the deeper message will enjoy the spare, gentle story of siblings connecting with one another. Lush, spacious watercolors of charming Stillwater and the open neighborhood will entrance children, as will the dramatic black-and-white pictures of the comical animal characters that illustrated Stillwater's Zen stories. Muth doesn't list sources for the tales, but his author's note offers more commentary about Zen. Stillwater's questions will linger (Can misfortune become good luck? What is the cost of anger?), and the peaceful, uncluttered pictures, like the story itself, will encourage children to dream and fill in their own answers. ((Reviewed March 1, 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2005 Fall
Three Zen stories are woven into a contemporary frame story when Stillwater, a talking panda, meets three young children. The panda narrates a story to fit each child's mood. The "shorts" are illustrated with quick black brush strokes, white forms, and pale backgrounds, while the children and Stillwater live in a tranquil watercolor world. An author's note provides background information. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2005 February #1
Limpidly beautiful watercolors and a wry, puckish gentleness mark these three Zen stories, one for each of three children. Michael, Karl and Addy discover a giant panda in their backyard. ("He spoke with a slight panda accent.") His name is Stillwater, and he tells Addy the tale of his Uncle Ry, who gave the robber who could find nothing to steal in his house his own tattered robe. (The robber, in the black-and-white illustrations that mark the three stories, is a raccoon.) When Michael comes to visit, he climbs a tree to sit with Stillwater, who tells the story of the farmer's luck. Karl comes to visit carrying too much stuff for Stillwater's wading pool, and hears just the right story for him. The pictures are as full of peace and solace-and humor-as the text: The title page has the panda dancing in a pair of oversize shorts; the cake Addy brings for tea has a stalk of bamboo in it for Stillwater; Karl and the panda bow to each other at the end of their day. The Buddha lurks in the details here: Every word and image comes to make as perfect a picture book as can be. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-9) Copyright Kirkus 2005 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2005 February #4
Muth, who has retold traditional stories such as Stone Soup and Tolstoy's The Three Questions, and played up their spiritual elements with his elegant watercolors, here introduces three Zen stories from Japan. He frames the trio of tales within the context of a suburban household. Three siblings befriend a giant panda when his red umbrella blows into their yard. Speaking "with a slight panda accent," he introduces himself as Stillwater, and charms Addy and Michael-though Karl, the youngest, is still "shy around bears he [doesn't] know." Each day one of the children goes to visit Stillwater, revealing something of him- or herself. The panda chooses an appropriate Zen fable for each child, illustrated with rough-edged, Chinese-style brush-and-ink paintings on duotone pages, to play up the story-within-a-story structure. In the first, Stillwater tells Addy about his Uncle Ry, who disarms a robber by treating him like a guest (older readers will pick up from the closing author's note that "Uncle Ry" is shorthand for the Zen hermit Ryokan Taigu). In the next, a wise farmer demonstrates that good luck can quickly turn to bad luck and back again (a tale Ed Young also retold in The Lost Horse). In the last, a monk learns how to stop brooding and live in the present. Readers will fall easily into the rhythm of visits to Stillwater and his storytelling sessions, and many more will fall in love with the panda, whose shape and size offer the children many opportunities for cuddling. Ages 4-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2005 February
K-Gr 4-Beautifully illustrated in two distinct styles, this book introduces readers to a Zen approach to the world, wrapped in a story about three siblings and their new neighbor, a panda. One by one, the children visit Stillwater, enjoying his company and listening to him tell a brief tale that illustrates a Zen principle. Each time, there is a link between the conversation shared by Stillwater and his visitor and the story he tells; it's somewhat tenuous in regard to the two older siblings, quite specific in the case of Karl, the youngest. The tales invite the children to consider the world and their perceptions from a different angle; for Karl, the panda's story gently but pointedly teaches the benefits of forgiveness. Richly toned and nicely detailed watercolors depict the "real world" scenes, while those accompanying the Zen lessons employ black lines and strokes on pastel pages to create an interesting blend of Western realism and more evocative Japanese naturalism. Taken simply as a picture book, Zen Shorts is interesting and visually lovely. As an introduction to Zen, it is a real treat, employing familiar imagery to prod children to approach life and its circumstances in profoundly "un-Western" ways. An author's note discusses the basic concept of Zen and details the sources of Stillwater's stories. Appealing enough for a group read-aloud, but also begging to be shared and discussed by caregiver and child, Zen Shorts is a notable achievement.-Coop Renner, Hillside Elementary, El Paso, TX Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.