Sunday, February 22, 2009

Zen Shorts

I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I read Zen Short's. Of course, the title is a play on words - the panda, Stillwater, wears shorts. There are also "short" Zen/meditation stories within the picture book. Stillwater appears outside the house of three children. Each child shares an adventure with Stillwater, their new neighbor. Stillwater tells stories about life, the choices we make, and our perceptions about life. I really enjoyed the illustrations. The story about the children is illustrated with watercolors and the "shorts" are drawn in ink. Jon J. Muth, author and illustrator, captures the wide-eyed curiousity and excitement of a toddler (on tiptoes) that cannot believe his eyes! I have a nephew that has that same "tiptoe" excitement when he is trying to share something incredible. Muth's illustrations in the short "Uncle Ry and the Moon" also made me smile as I read about a robber - illustrated as a raccoon. I will remember to read this book to my third grade students when we talk about fables and other selections that encourage the students to think about the author's purpose for writing. I also found the Author's Note at the end of the book very helpful. Muth gives a short history of "Zen" and explains that his characters' names come from Japanese and Zen history.

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