The Children’s Bookshelf: January February 2010
29 January 2010 1,626 views No Comment
By Lisa Pimentel Johnson Normally I would not review the same author for three books, but he is really good! It is a new year and we all could use a little “zen” in our lives. Zen is a Japanese word that means “meditation,” and all of these books abound with enlightenment and love. The first book by Jon J Muth, called Zen Shorts, has won the Caldecott Honor award and is a delightful, gentle story about a wise Panda bear named Stillwater. Stillwater becomes friends with three children—Addy, Michael, and Karl—when he moves into their neighborhood. Each curious child comes over to his house to discover and play with the giant friendly bear. Stillwater calmly eases into telling each of them a story about human nature. This book is an excellent teaching tool for parents and children to talk about our own lives and the reactions given the same situations in the book. It is an opportunity to share values and build character as we strive to understand ourselves. In the end, it is how all the children and Stillwater are connected in life and the living of it! The second book, Zen Ties, also stars my new favorite Panda bear, Stillwater. This time his nephew, Koo, comes visiting and only speaks poetically...in Haiku style. Every time Koo said something, it was as a short poem of three lines, usually stressing five, then seven, then five syllables. The result is an engaging little bear who speaks succinctly! Once again, human nature is explored and this time it involves an old, grumpy lady, Miss Whitaker, who lives on their street. Through Stillwater’s patience and example, all the children and Miss Whitaker have an attitude adjustment. Being an environmentalist, I also enjoyed the tag line about the disposable cup. After reusing the same paper cup during his visit, as Koo is leaving to return home, he tells Stillwater, “Nearing my visit’s end / summer now tastes of apple tea / I will keep my cup,” all in perfect Haiku of course! The third book, The Three Questions, is based on a story by Leo Tolstoy. In Muth’s version, a young boy ponders three questions to his companions, the heron, monkey, and dog. The questions are:
- When is the best time to do things?
- Who is the most important one?
- What is the right thing to do?