Zen Shorts - the story of Stillwater the Panda

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When I bought this book, I expected to get an engaging story with beautiful watercolors.

When I got it - that was the least that mattered. Zen Shorts is much, much, more than that.

It's a positive life philosophy.

Reading the meditative story aloud or the first time to my kids, I loved it so much that I kept peeking at their faces after turning every single page.

Was it boring?

Were they fiddling with their hair and secretly yawning?

Or maybe even falling asleep?

Surprise, surprise!

My kids did not even notice me sizing up their expressions.

Not once. That's how good it was.

They seemed to be thinking: "Well, this is a change!"

Zen Shorts is a great exercise in giving credit to your kids.

This is a thoughtfully written book that has high expectations of its readers/listeners, yet delivers this expectation in such a low-key manner.

I was taken aback with the maturity of this picture book.

But it is not over the head of kids. Strange. 

The book is about an unlikely friendship that is struck between the Stillwater the panda and three normal siblings in a suburb.

They are ordinary neighbors - presented in glorious watercolors.

Each of the three children forges a special tie with Stillwater.

The panda has a friendly ear and has a special sensibility for the problems troubling the young ones, but he does not impart any direct advice.

Instead, the kids receive presents from Stillwater in the form of individually-tailored soothing Zen stories that externalize the children's problems in the form of timeless yarns.

These special stories are illustrated in melancholic black-and white tones, providing a dramatic contrast to the main story.

Zen Shorts is the first in a trilogy of Zen stories published by author/illustrator John J Muth, the remaining ones are Zen Ties and Zen Ghosts.

I would recommend that you start with Zen Shorts, as this book will provide the best introduction for Stillwater into your family.

If you take the time to read together with your kids, you will be surprised how they respond to mature, though-provoking topics such as the ones raised by Zen Shorts.

The over-sized chummy panda is a beloved and wise family friend who brings smiles to the faces of my kids.

Stillwater (what a great name!) is now a family friend who introduced life's deeper questions to my twins.

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