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Picture book Review and Analysis-Jon J Muth's "Zen Shorts"
One has to love a picture book whose cover is that of a panda bear wearing big boxer shorts, with beautifully rendered water colors, which are just rough enough to give energy to the illustrations Muth has provided a beautiful book worthy of the Caldecott Honor it received.
This beautiful book of fables and parables begins with Karl, the youngest brother of three siblings being told by the oldest Michael that there is a bear outside, with an umbrella. And so with beautiful water colors the two brothers find themselves standing behind the sister between them in age, Addy. She is already talking the be Panda bear who is explaining in a slight panda accent that his umbrella had blown over here and he had come to retieve it. The panda how is now their neighbor is Stillwater.
Adda the very next day walks up the hill to have tea with Stillwater, she brings a bamboo cake, and meets Stillwater in his tent where they have tea and he tells her a parable, a story of his uncle, who sent him the tent.
The pictures in this part of the book are done on blue paper, with black ink. Imaginative and fun these pictures display the powerful quality of the stories told.
The older brother the next day sits in a tree with Stillwater and learns that even events that seem like good luck can be bad, just as those that can be bad luck can be good. Its hard to say for certain what luck one is having so people should be careful to pass judgement on it.
The youngest brother goes over the next day to go swimming, he brings a lot of things because his older brother told him he couldn't bring any. Such is his anger that he fills the whole pool with toys, so that there is no room for him and Stillwater. He learns that one should let things go.
What makes this story fun is all the details, the way in which the youngest brother is shy around bears at first, or how Stillwater holds his umbrella over the children as it rains. I would strongly recommend this book to everyone, child or not for this is a picture book for all ages.