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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this gentle book shares a terrific message that can be enjoyed by families of many religious backgrounds. It's the sequel to Zen Shorts, but can be read without reading the other book. The publisher likely selected an older target age (9-12) because of the book's complexity, but kids as young as 5 will enjoy the pandas and the relationships even if they miss some of the story's depth.
What's the story?
Is it any good?
Stillwater the Zen panda originally appeared in Muth's picture book, Zen Shorts; in this fun and colorful book, Stillwater is welcoming nephew Koo. ("Hi Koo!" as in haiku -- the younger Panda only speaks in that short poetic form.) Koo and the neighborhood kids reach out to a grouchy neighbor with what might be surprising results for kids who haven't read this kind of fable before.
Like many sequels, ZEN TIES isn't as good as the original, but it holds up on its own. Muth's illustrations are amazing -- soft watercolors with details that lend incredible realism -- and the gentle story is many layered, allowing it to be read and understood differently as kids grow and re-read it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about doing the right thing. Does it make sense to be nice to someone who's being mean? Can kids think of a time where kindness changed a bad situation? Why do we do the right thing? Famlies can also try their hand at writing haiku poetry with the explanation in the back of the book.