Jon J. Muth, renowned in the world of graphic novels, moved our hearts with his beautifully illustrated children's book The Three Questions, an adaptation of a short story by Tolstoy. In Stone Soup, he used a traditional folk tale to remind children and all of us that hospitality and sharing can change even the worst of luck.
His latest book, Zen Happiness, is next in a series of small-format gift books featuring Stillwater the Panda, introduced to us in the Caldecott Honor Book Zen Shorts. Each page spread contains a short aphorism accompanied by an adorable picture of Stillwater and friends, who include children, another panda, a cat, and a meditating lizard. For "Be someone you want to be around," we see Stillwater firmly and invitingly holding an umbrella out to three children emerging into the rain. The littlest boy charmingly reaches back to feel the drops falling from the roof gutter. For "With our thoughts, we create the world," we see a little girl and boy drawing a colorful, ornate Chinese dragon with chalk. In the outlined part they have not yet completed, Stillwater gazes down at a series of chalk-drawn tick-tack-toe games.
It's these kinds of unexpected details in the pictures that help the words take hold, bridging our rational left brain and creative right brain in a true Zen whole. Scholastic lists this book as being for 5 - 18 year olds, but really it would make a nice gift for just about anyone, especially someone in need of uplift.