Zen Shorts – Caldecott Honor Book

March 20, 2011

I must begin with a simple, “Wow!”  I LOVE this book!  The words and illustrations, both by John Muth, are breathtaking.  Muth takes the idea of Zen, which are meditations similar to fables or parables, and entangles them within a children’s book about a giant panda named Stillwater and 3 children who live nextdoor.  Stillwater uses Zen Shorts at various points within the book to help each of the children reexamine their thoughts.  Basically, there are 3 mini-stories, which teach a moral or lesson, that are intertwined within the book.  These mini-stories are off-set, as the illustrations are different.  While the pages featuring Stillwater and the children are light, colorful illustrations, those that feature the Zen Short stories have thicker black lines and less color. 

I’m not really sure if I can pinpoint the exact reason why I love this book so much, but it gives me goosebumps every time I read it.  There is so much depth within such a seemingly simple tale of a Panda and 3 children.  I think I relate to the story because the last Zen tale taught me so much even as an adult.  This book features lovable characters, wonderful parables, a glimpse of Asian culture, and beautiful watercolor illustrations.  I own 3 copies – one in my classroom, and one for each of my two children!

While searching for an image of this book for my blog, I happened upon an amazing website (http://www.merrymakersinc.com) where you can purchase your very own Stillwater the panda, like the one pictured below!  I have to have one of these for my classroom!

Images obtained from http://www.amazon.com and http://www.merrymakersinc.com

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