Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin




Thursday, December 16, 2010

Muth Masterpiece

In Zen Shorts, a Caldecott Honor book, and the companion, Zen Ties, readers were introduced to children, Karl, Michael and Addy along with their wise advisor and companion, a giant panda, Stillwater.
The foursome are together again in Zen Ghosts, a tale to be shared at Halloween or really anytime.

More reflective than frightening but spooky nonetheless, Zen Ghosts begins with the young siblings getting costumes ready the day before Halloween.  Stillwater asks them after the trick or treating to meet him at the big stone wall promising to take them to a storyteller.  After a journey to his home along an unfamiliar path they find themselves before a giant panda storyteller who surprisingly enough appears to bear a close resemblance to Stillwater.  But how could that be?  He is sitting next to them waiting to listen to the tale.  Holding up a brush the panda says, I am going to draw you a story...

Strokes of his brush reveal the lives of Senjo and her beloved Ochu, friends through childhoodSurely they are meant to spend all their days together loving one another as husband and wife but the fates have other plans for them.  But can those destined to be together ever be separated? 

As Jon Muth states in his author's note at the book's end this is a great ghost story.  But he goes on to share his purpose for writing and illustrating this particular Buddhist koan.  His very thoughtful comments and questions about children facing the issue of duality early and throughout their lives are beneficial and enlightening just as they are meant to be.

Watercolor illustrations soft, inviting and begging to be touched create the perfect mood for this latest Zen book.  The initial endpapers of ghosts and jack-o-lanterns come-to-life scampering across a neighborhood street are sure to entice a quiet smile as will the two-page spread showing all the children trick or treating.  Showing the pirate owl on the closing endpapers offers readers the opportunity to continue contemplating the story within the story.  Mr. Jon Muth through his carefully rendered visuals and spare text has presented we lucky readers within another volume to be treasured.

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