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. To Addie 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.
“When Michael, Addy and Karl meet Stillwater, a panda with his paws full of Zen wisdom, each are made trustees of an ancient tale….
Addy, kind and curious, brings Stillwater a cake, and in return, hears of the neighboring bear’s enlightened uncle Ry, who awakened one night to the rummaging of a robbing raccoon. The robber is startled, but Ry’s pity for the pilferer brings him to offer the thief his robe, which is all that fills the empty house; a peaceful demonstration of value. The next day, among the boughs of a tall tree, Michael is told the of “The Farmer’s Luck” and after, Karl, the youngest, is aided in his frustrations through the telling of “The Heavy Load”.
Written and illustrated by Jon Muth, Zen Shorts, a 2006 Caldecott Honor book, is gentle in its message and wonderfully enlivened by delicate watercolors on every page. Neatly shelved in the children’s section, an all-age treasure awaits, inviting passerby to share in a peaceful moment with three Zen shorts.”
Recommended by: Kevin Kirkpatrick, Garfield Park Branch Library
If you like Zen Shorts you might also like these three books also by Jon Muth. In The Three Questions a boy asks his animal friends three questions: “When is the best time to do things?” “Who is the most important?” and “What is the right thing to do?”. Zen Ghosts and Zen Ties again feature the wise Zen stories of Stillwater the bear:
When lonely, ten-year-old Hal learns that his wealthy but neglectful parents only rented Fleck, the dog he always wanted, he and new friend Pippa take Fleck and four other dogs from the rental agency on a trek from London to Scotland, where Hal’s grandparents live. Author: Eva Ibbotson
“Fleck and Hal know at first sight they are one dog and his boy. The adventure begins when parents, then criminals, and even tracker dogs named Darth and Terminator conspire to keep them apart. Four other dogs and an assortment of humans, including a circus, come to the aid of Fleck and Hal. There are miles and miles of surprising and funny adventures as Hal and Fleck go ‘on the run’ away from their pursuers and toward their happy ending and the happy endings of each of their protectors, human and canine.”
Sixty years ago, on October 15, 1952, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web was published. It’s been a favorite ever since.
If you like Wilbur and Charlotte and the rest of the animals in Uncle Homer’s barn, you might like some of these stories that give animals voices and give YOU a peek into their world. I wonder every day what my dog might be thinking. I like these stories that imagine what an animal might think and if it could talk, what it would say to its friends. I especially like these stories when the animals become a character I can love. Who would have thought a spider could be as lovable as Charlotte? In these stories mice, a cricket, a cat, a rabbit & even a gorilla let us know what might be going on in their furry heads and in their beating hearts (which is what they have in common with US!)
“When’s the last time you got fed?” Beulah responded by clamping down on Mickey’s left foot and throwing a meaty coil around both his legs. “Easy, Princess,” he said. The Python wrapped upward with another coil, and then another. Mickey quickly locked both arms in front of his chest to protect his lungs from being crushed, but he was out of shape and Beulah was extremely powerful. “Wahoo!” he hollered. “Yo!” “What?” Called a voice from the house. “Get your butt out here!” (page 24)
Wahoo’s Dad Mickey is an animal wrangler. If there is an alligator, snake, lizard, bear or leopard in a movie, chances are Wahoo’s Dad was there during filming. The animals live on their property and Wahoo helps take care of them…when he remembers!
Times are kind of lean in the animal wrangling business and Wahoo’s family is having trouble making ends meet. When the reality television show “Expedition Survival” calls wanting to use some of the animals on an upcoming episode, Wahoo and his Dad can’t wait to get started…until they meet the show’s star – Derek Badger, “Mr. Show Business”. It’s going to take all of Mickey and Wahoo’s knowledge and patience to keep Derek alive, because they know what the animals are thinking, “All you stupid humans taste the same!” Author: Carl Hiassen
1944. Elizabeth’s mother works at Dresden Zoo, where her favorite animal is an elephant named Marlene. When the zoo director tells her the dangerous animals must be shot to prevent them running amok when the town is bombed, Elizabeth’s mother moves Marlene into the back garden to save her. And then the bombs start to fall…
“This remarkable story, based on actual events, tells of young girl named Lizzie living with her family in Dresden, Germany during World War II. While her father serves his country, Lizzie’s mother takes a job at the nearby zoo where a bond is formed with an orphaned elephant named Marlene. As the threat of bombing looms, the zoo must face the task of disposing of the animals. Unable to think of Marlene being put down, the family houses her in their garden until the bombs finally fall. Along with the other surviving residents of the city, the family makes their way through the country side in search of safety. Lizzie soon learns, however, that having an elephant as a travel companion in the midst of war can make the trek far more complicated. Morpugo has crafted a unique coming-of-age story with an unusual friendship at the heart of it that proves that some bonds are unbreakable.”
By : Jeff Huttinger, The Learning Curve Central Library