Zen Shorts

Common Sense Media says

A beautiful introduction to Zen thinking.




Caldecott Medal and Honors

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Encourages kids to think about important topics like generosity and forgiveness.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this lovely, gentle book provides an introduction to Zen thinking. These retellings of classic Buddhist stories will get kids thinking about topics they can relate to, from sharing with others to letting go of grudges.

Parents say

Kids say

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What's the story?

New neighbor Stillwater shares Zen wisdom with his new human friends, retelling three classic Buddhist stories.

Is it any good?


Stories within a story give readers many layers to enjoy and explore. Jon Muth writes about three siblings with a new neighbor -- a giant panda named Stillwater with the wisdom of an ancient Buddhist monk. Stillwater doesn't lead his listeners to any conclusions, which guarantees that each reading can lead to new ideas and epiphanies.

The beautiful watercolor and ink illustrations are -- like the stories they accompany -- deceptively simple. But a careful examination will reveal small details that reinforce the Asian inspiration. On the last page, Muth gives more details about Zen, the real people behind his imaginary characters, and shares the origins of the stories. Kids who are ready to think about complicated ideas about justice, kindness, and retribution will value the book, and even younger kids who just want entertainment will be pleased.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the complex ideas presented in these simple fables. Parents and kids can talk about the advantages of generosity in the face of greed, the true meaning of luck, and the burdens of bearing a grudge.

Book details

Author:Jon J Muth
Illustrator:Jon J. Muth
Genre:Picture Book
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Inc.
Publication date:March 1, 2003
Number of pages:40
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 7
Read aloud:4
Read alone:8
Award:Caldecott Medal and Honors

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written bykalleyeope April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
Parent of a 5 year old Written byCarlyandColesDad August 5, 2009

Great book for the whole family

We love reading these beautiful little stories.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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