November 26, 2014

Zen Ties

Book Review: Zen Ties by Jon J. Muth Reviewed by Fa Liang
The follow-up to "Zen Shorts": "a sequel that doesn’t disappoint"


zen_ties_In his new book "Zen Ties", author and illustrator Jon J. Muth invites us to join Michael, Addy and Karl as they meet Stillwater the panda once again. This time it’s summer and Stillwater is expecting company.

Stillwater’s nephew Koo comes for a visit and Stillwater’s greeting, “Hi, Koo!” should give you a clue as to what’s interesting about the little panda. He only speaks in haiku!

Summer fading
new friends’ faces
lighten the way home

Stillwater invites the children to join him for a visit with an elderly lady in the neighborhood. She’s a bitter old lady who’s always screaming at the children not to play in her yard and the kids can’t understand why Stillwater would be her friend. Through his own gentle ways, Stillwater manages to again change the children’s outlook… as well as the lady’s. In the end, everyone realizes how they’re all interconnected, thus the title of the book: Zen Ties.

Unlike its predecessor, this book isn’t filled with famous Zen parables. This book’s message of compassion and loving-kindness is a little more subtle, but it leaves plenty of opportunities for thought and discussion. Koo’s haikus are both charming and insightful, and Muth’s watercolor illustrations are as powerfully moving as the story itself.

One of my favorite “mini” lessons from the book:

Michael is worried about an upcoming spelling bee and he asks Stillwater, “What would you do if you were in a spelling bee?”

Stillwater’s response: “I would spell words.”

What a fantastic way to illustrate “being fully present.”

All in all, another Muth masterpiece ­ one that would appeal to all ages.

Title: Zen Ties
Author/illustrator: Jon J. Muth
ISBN: 978-0439634250
Publisher: Scholastic Press