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ZEN TIES by Jon J Muth


by Jon J Muth & illustrated by Jon J Muth

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-439-63425-0
Publisher: Scholastic

In this companion to Muth’s Caldecott Honor–winning Zen Shorts (2006), the wise and gentle Giant Panda Stillwater and his young friends are joined by Stillwater’s young nephew Koo. This time, the friends tackle two problems: Michael’s nervousness over an impending spelling bee and an irascible elderly neighbor, Miss Whitaker. The plot is predictable: With some friendly attention from Stillwater and the children, Miss Whitaker will turn out to be more vulnerable than nasty and, as a former English teacher, will help Michael overcome his spelling anxiety. The pleasure, as always, is with Muth’s irresistible storytelling, both visual and textual. In most of the delicate, finely detailed watercolor paintings the towering figure of Stillwater dominates. In others, the frail figure of Miss Whitaker dressed in red and purple with a magnificent fluff of white hair carries the most visual weight. The story’s theme of intergenerational kindness is tender, and the text is infused with bits of haiku, wordplay and small lessons that charmingly avoid didacticism. A welcome return. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)