Zen Ties

Common Sense Media says

Zen lessons that take on new meaning as kids grow.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Kids learn kindness is its own reward.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Not applicable

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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What's the story?

Stillwater helps his friends understand why it's important to be kind even to people who don't seem to deserve it. Includes a brief explanation of haiku in the back.

Is it any good?


Stillwater the Zen panda originally appeared in Muth's picture book, Zen Shorts. This time 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.

Families can talk 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.

Book details

Author:Jon J Muth
Illustrator:Jon J. Muth
Genre:Picture Book
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Press
Publication date:February 1, 2008
Number of pages:40
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

This review of Zen Ties was written by

About our rating system

  • 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, okay 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 bypoppetsmommy April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

beautiful pictures!

No glitz or glamour needed; this is a simple sweet story with beautiful pictures that parents and kids will both love to read together!
Adult Written byJennie Teh June 19, 2009


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