Zen Shorts

(a Caldecott Honor book)

By Jon J. Muth

With LitKid in middle school and reading novels nonstop, we don’t revisit our picture books as often as we should. They’ve never been put away –  in fact, we display them as the works of art that they are – but sitting down to read them together is a rare thing these days.

Retreating into our old favorites is probably a perfect antidote to the frenetic feeling that comes with the juggling of homework, swimming, etc. So in honor of Picture Book Month, we’re setting out to revisit as many favorites as possible (ideally, one for every day of November, but we’ll see how that goes). We may not have time for full-fledged reviews, but we’ll at least post what we’re reading; with any luck, we’ll introduce you to something new or remind you to go back and read an old favorite.

Tonight, after a long night of  homework, we took turns reading aloud the first two stories in Jon J. Muth’s Zen Shorts, a gentle, wise book that was the perfect quiet bookend to our day. (LitKid was drooping too much to make it any farther than the first two tonight.)

Stillwater the Panda enlightens his young friends through telling them stories, and I’m betting that most of the grownups who read Zen Shorts with their kids come away more affected by Stillwater’s wisdom than the little ones.

Lately, I’ve kept this one out so I walk by and see it every day;  just seeing the beautiful cover illustration of Stillwater – balancing (of course) on a rooftop, parasol in hand, beneath that beautiful cherry tree in full bloom – tends to conjure up a sense of calm.

And of course, ‘calm’ is the gift you expect from a bear named Stillwater.


Postscript: My fuzzy photograph of Zen Shorts doesn’t do it justice; if you can’t get your hands on a copy right away, be sure to look up professional shots of the book so you can fully appreciate Muth’s illustrations.