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John J. Muth
Zen Shorts
When Stillwater, the giant panda, moves into the neighborhood, the stories he tells to three siblings teach them to look at the word in new and different ways.

The first of the Zen Shorts is about giving presents—the meaning behind true giving. The second story focuses on luck, and how events are connected, and how we can never really judge luck as good or bad. The final story deals with anger—and holding on to it—what it means to let go of old pain and be in the moment.

The Author's Note reminds us that Zen is a Japanese word that simply means meditation. The Zen Shorts are short meditations—ideas to puzzle over—tools which hone our ability to act with intuition. They have no goal, but they often challenge us to reexamine our habits, desires, concepts, and fears.

In essence, Zen Shorts is about being alive, being in the moment, and letting go. Highly recommend for all ages as a reminder to slow down and experience being alive—and stillwater.

The Three Questions
What is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? Nikolai knows that he wants to be the best person he can be, but often he is unsure if he is doing the right thing. So he goes to ask Leo, the wise turtle. When he arrives, the turtle is struggling to dig in his garden, and Nikolai rushes to help him. As he finishes work, a violent storm rolls in. Nikolai runs for Leo's cottage, but on his way, he hears cries for help from an injured panda. Nikolai brings her in from the cold, and then rushes back outside to rescue her baby too.

The Zen message of The Three Questions (based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy) might be difficult for young readers to interpret, but children will enjoy the delightful story about doing good deeds and discovering answers yourself.