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Zen Shorts by Jon Muth

Zen Shorts (edition 2005)

by Jon Muth

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1,7631623,997 (4.41)24
Title:Zen Shorts
Authors:Jon Muth
Info:Scholastic Inc. (2005), Paperback, 36 pages
Collections:Picture Books
Tags:panda, pandas, children, neighbors, bamboo, Zen Buddhism, Japan, Zen, watercolors, black and white, calligraphy, friends, family

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Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth



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Showing 1-5 of 162 (next | show all)
Addy, Michael, and Karl are siblings and they discover a giant panda named Stillwater in their backyard. Each child hangs out with Stillwater one-on-one and Stillwater tells a short, yet meaningful story to each child. He tells a story of a generous bear, a lucky and unlucky farmer, and a kind-hearted mouse. Each story encourages the children to think about their own life in a different way, triggering the reader to also contemplate on their own life. I think this book generates meaningful thoughts because the moralized stories don't necessarily come to concrete conclusions, allowing readers to imagine and conclude on their own. The illustrations were created with watercolor and ink. I think they are phenomenal! I love how the illustrations accompanied with the "stories within the story" that the Stillwater tells are black and white and more simple. They contrast the more warm-toned illustrations for the rest of the story.

GENRE: Fantasy Picture Book
This book is classified as fantasy because the children interact with the panda in a way they would interact with other humans. For example, they talk to the panda, and the panda tells them stories. The setting is a real place, in a neighborhood, but the addition of the talking panda makes the book fantasy.

(1) All of the short stories in this book are based on either Zen Buddhist literature or have roots in Taoism. It would be interesting to pair this book with a study on the history of Japan.
(2) This could also be paired with teaching a lesson about "frame stories", in which there are smaller stories within the main story, as demonstrated in this book. ( )
  akgingerich | Feb 6, 2016 |
This picture book is about three siblings, Michael, Karl, and Andy who meet a Zen panda bear named Stillwater in their backyard. Each passing day one of the siblings goes to Stillwater and learns a valuable lesson. Stillwater addresses these life lessons through stories. First, Andy learns about the generosity of Stillwater’s uncle, Michael learns that nothing can be predicted, everything is unknown and could change at any moment, and Karl learns that he must let go of unimportant matters that can ruin his day.

Personal Reaction:
I thought this was a beautiful picture book with vivid pictures and beautiful stories. This book gives great life lessons and teaches children, as well as adults, to be Zen, one with ourselves. I believe there are more books like this and I plan on reading them. I also love panda’s, so this book was a must.

Classroom Extension Ideas:
1. In class we can discuss the different life lessons Stillwater speaks of and the children can draw a picture of a time when they learned a valuable lesson and then they can go around the room and tell about it
2. In one of the stories Stillwater tells “The Farmers Luck”, the class can make their own unique “maybe” stories. Starting from one end of the class we will have a bad situation or event occur (you forget your lunch), and then the next person will say something good (the lunch room has pizza today), and the next person says something bad, see how far we can go.
  Genevieve.Foerster | Jan 28, 2016 |
I enjoyed this book. While the story illustrations of the panda and the children are in water colors, the Zen stories are in bold black and white clearly telling the reader that there is a story within a story. I think this would be effective for classes who may be struggling with different viewpoints, anger or sharing. It would require a discussion because I don't think all children would understand the underlying moral.
  Tracie_Shepherd | Jan 22, 2016 |
Easy-to-read, educational and playful text, illustrated with soft, calming watercolor paintings.
  gretchensanders | Jan 19, 2016 |
Charming. Nice combination of storytelling, play, and conversation. ( )
  Connie-D | Jan 17, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 162 (next | show all)
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)
Addy, Michael, and Karl meet Stillwater the giant panda when he enters their yard to retrieve his breeze-blown umbrella. In their subsequent one-on-one visits to Stillwater's house, the siblings enjoy short stories from the Zen and Taoist practices told by Stillwater. Though the children's interaction with Stillwater instigates the telling of each story, these tales connect only tenuously with the frame narrative, and their primary purpose seems more to provide food for thought than to offer resolution to the problems presented in the frame story. Indeed, as explained in an author's note, these shorts are traditionally used to guide meditation rather than to entertain. In keeping with the intention of the text, the line-and-watercolor illustrations display a meditative balance of color and smoothness of movement--figures in motion appear to float in the lemon and azure air, even as their bodies retain a decided weight. Images of climbing and bouncing figures emphasize that ethereality, which, when combined with the delicately expressive human and panda forms, positions the visual effect of the illustrations halfway between realism and surrealism. The art for the internal short stories is given in dramatic black ink sketches, the strikingly energetic elements silhouetted against white or white and a single pastel. In spite of the quality of the illustrations, peaceful reflection is not an easy sell to picture-book aficionados, so the contemplative text limits the youthful audience to those who have strong interests in this aspect of Asian culture or those with impressive powers of concentration. A note explains more about Zen and Muth's specific inspirations.
added by ReneHohls | editBulletin of the Center for Children's Books 58 no8 351 Ap 2005, Timnah Card (Apr 1, 2005)
Stories within a story give readers many layers to enjoy and explore. Jon Muth writes about three siblings with a new neighbor -- a giant panda named Stillwater with the wisdom of an ancient Buddhist monk. Stillwater doesn't lead his listeners to any conclusions, which guarantees that each reading can lead to new ideas and epiphanies.

The beautiful watercolor and ink illustrations are -- like the stories they accompany -- deceptively simple. But a careful examination will reveal small details that reinforce the Asian inspiration. On the last page, Muth gives more details about Zen, the real people behind his imaginary characters, and shares the origins of the stories. Kids who are ready to think about complicated ideas about justice, kindness, and retribution will value the book, and even younger kids who just want entertainment will be pleased.
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the Giant Panda I've often found dancing on my porch
First words
"Michael! There's a bear outside!" said Karl.
"What's he doing?" Michael asked. / "He's sitting. He has an umbrella," said Karl. / "An umbrella?"
He spoke with a slight panda accent.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Curriculum Connection:  3rd Grade Reading  Std. 2 Reading for All Purposes
Concepts and skills students master:1. Strategies are needed to make meaning of various types of literary genres
iii. Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text. (CCSS: RL.3.2)
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0439339111, Hardcover)

Jon J Muth, author of the best-selling book, THE THREE QUESTIONS, has crafted another profound and winning picture book.

"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 graceful art and simple stories that are filled with love and enlightenment, Jon Muth -- and Stillwater the bear -- present three ancient Zen tales that are sure to strike a chord in everyone they touch.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:00 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

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.

(summary from another edition)

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