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Zen Ties Hardcover – February 1, 2008


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Zen Ties + Zen Shorts (Caldecott Honor Book) + The Three Questions [Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy]
Price for all three: $37.90

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 and up
  • Grade Level: 1 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 460L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1st edition (February 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439634253
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439634250
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 10.7 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Stillwater, the giant panda who taught Zen parables to siblings Karl, Addy and Michael in Zen Shorts, continues to combine his slow-moving grace with genuine spiritual tranquility. This time, Michael faces a daunting spelling bee, and Stillwater, first seen wearing a necktie, introduces the three to Miss Whitaker, an elderly neighbor whose crabby outbursts have frightened them. Stillwater's inward eye sees through her anger to her fear and loneliness. She turns out to be a marvelous spelling coach (Just like plants, words have roots, she tells Michael. Roots of words can teach you to spell), and when Michael wins a red ribbon, the pictures show the whole group sharing his victory with their own red ribbons—the Zen ties of the title. (Zentai is Japanese for the whole or the entire, as in all of us together.) A subplot featuring Koo, Stillwater's nephew, drifts a bit; he's a cute little panda who punctuates the action with Zen-influenced haiku (and allows Muth another pun: Hi, Koo!). Muth's brush is as sure as ever; Stillwater's big, blunt paws and hunched-over listening posture are irresistible, and Miss Whitaker's delicate face and snow-white hair beautifully counterpoint the vignettes of youthful play. From a religious tradition that makes no theological demands and that will be unfamiliar to most readers, Stillwater offers a model of pure saintliness, and children will instantly respond to him. All ages. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Jon J Muth has written and illustrated many enchanting picture books, including his Caldecott Honor Book ZEN SHORTS and its sequel, the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling picture book ZEN TIES. Other beloved titles from Jon include THE THREE QUESTIONS, GERSHON'S MONSTER by Eric Kimmel, and THE CHRISTMAS MAGIC by Lauren Thompson. Muth lives in upstate New York with his wife and five children.

More About the Author


In 1999 Mr. Muth started what has been over a decade in children's books. He has received numerous awards and critical acclaim and worked with many talented people. He is the author and illustrator of "Zen Shorts" a Caldecott Honor book, which Kirkus Review described as "Every word and image comes to make as perfect a picture book as can be". He is the illustrator of the anthology, "A Family of Poems", with Caroline Kennedy. His book "The Three Questions" has been described as "quietly life-changing" by The New York Times.

Muth worked for over twenty years in comics and graphic novels; culminating in the industry's highest honor, an Eisner Award for "The Mystery Play".

In an interview with the Paris Review, E.B. White once said, "You don't write down for children. You write up." Muth wholeheartedly agrees. "Children are completely capable of intuiting wisdom as readily as adults are... they just may not have the ability to put it into words ... [but] they get this stuff very quickly. Even the kids who come to the book (Zen Shorts) because it has a giant panda tend to come back because there's some itch that's created -- in their minds or in their hearts -- to re-examine what's going on."

Mr. Muth has had a life long interest in Asian Studies, including tai chi chuan, sumi ink drawing and chado, "the way of tea". His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages and he lives with his wife Bonnie and their four children in New York.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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'Zen Ties' is a wonderful story, beautifully illustrated by Muth's watercolors.
E. Riego
This is one of my favorite books to read to my 4 and a half year old son before bed.
SuLu
They are great because the children love them, and they teach them valuable lessons!
KAREN S MENDENHALL-DAGER

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Ami Hassler on January 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Zen Ties is soothing / like breathing in yoga class / forgetting worries

Animate readers / with soft, light watercolors / and careful phrases

Rewards are greatest / when we help one another / teaches Stillwater

Be kind to planet / remember not to destroy / learns our young wee Koo

Happier today / for reading this picture book / Many thanks to Muth
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on March 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I learn so much about life from this fabulous author!
He lovingly distills the wisdom of ancient Zen teachings into the most touching and practical stories about the things we all come up against in life and frequently do not, despite our best intentions, know how to handle.

I discovered his books while visiting my brother's family. My sister-in-law bought me 'Zen Shorts', and told me that while Muth writes for children, SHE had learned more about HER life from that one book than most adult books she had read.
I bought 'Zen Ties' immediately when it came out because it is one of those books that can just shift your reality enough that it allows you to see life from a completely different angle. It is a short, lovely read and re-read when you, an adult, need a shift in perspective.
I recommend his books very highly! And, if you enjoy his books as much as I do, I also highly recommend a book called Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment by Ariel and Shya Kane. It is easy to read and also based on stories of things that confront all of us in our everyday lives and offers, as Muth does in 'Zen Ties', a completely different angle on how to see life.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Julie Neal TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This hardcover picture book took my breath away. Not since last summer's Walt Disney's Cinderella has a book so impressed me with its marriage of visuals and story.

The story is pretty simple. Huge panda Stillwater picks up his visiting nephew Koo -- who only speaks in haiku -- at the train station. They are joined by Stillwater's friends Addy, Michael and Karl. The pandas play with the kids, and Michael tells Stillwater his concerns about an upcoming Spelling Bee. Stillwater then takes them to Miss Whitaker's house, an elderly woman who lives on the kids' street. None of the three children can believe Stillwater would be friends with such a cranky, unpleasant person. Stillwater helps the siblings get to know Miss Whitaker, and they realize she is sad and bitter because she is alone, scared and not well. In the end the kids and the old lady learn to appreciate and help each other.

There is such depth here. Consider the wordplay. When Stillwater picks up his nephew, he says "Hi, Koo!" And then, of course, Koo only speaks in the 17-syllable haiku poetry form. The lovely and realistic watercolor renditions of people and pandas make the whole story seem dreamlike. Stillwater sometimes seems normal panda sized, sometimes as big as a house. The wordless -- and haunting -- image of Miss Whitaker, late at night, looking at a painting Karl and Koo made for her is worth the price of the book in itself.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Zanglha on January 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a very cute story for children which shows the way we are all part of humanity and how one receives help through helping others. It is a very warm book with beautiful illustrations. It is my new favorite. I also love the previous book Zen Shorts. For young and Old, Buddhist and non-Buddhist.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By E. Riego on February 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In `Zen Ties' Jon J. Muth revisits his delightful story of the friendship between siblings Addy, Michael, and Karl with Zen master panda bear Stillwater. Yet, here Muth adds a wonderful surprise - Stillwater's haiku-talking nephew Koo comes over from Japan to visit and in one week they will discover that many times what seems is not always what is.

When Stillwater makes friends with an angry neighbor, the siblings are speechless. They can not understand how Stillwater could ever want to spend a day with the bitter old lady who is always screaming at them to not play on her yard. Combining his peaceful messages with Koo's simple haikus, Stillwater shows Addy, Michael, and Karl that being alone and scared often makes people angry, but with a little love, patience, and care a person's true personality will come shining through.

'Zen Ties' is a wonderful story, beautifully illustrated by Muth's watercolors. It a great read in classes and in the home if you are teaching a lesson on morality and caring for grandparents and the elderly. Muth's addition of Koo's character also adds a creative journey into different forms of poetry - you can pair this up with a lesson on Japanese culture and a `write your own haiku' exercise with the class. (Literature teachers of older students can use this too!) This book is a great addition to your Muth collection and could be read before or after reading `Zen Shorts'.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jen H on February 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
We are huge fans of The Three Questions and Zen Shorts, so snapped this one up upon publication and are not disappointed. Lovely, lovely illustrations that visually celebrate the community that the story endorses. Stillwater, like some sort of modern-day Nana (the dog nanny in Peter Pan), teaches his human companions how simple acts help us overcome our fears. And Koo is a hilarious addition.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tom on June 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
We purchased this for our son based on our deep and abiding love of Zen Shorts. Zen Ties is not as fun or deep as Zen Shorts. We didn't fall in love with it like Zen Shorts. It's not bad, but we don't come back to it over and over like we did Zen Shorts.

I miss the embedded Zen stories - I preferred them to the framing bits in the first one. The haiku are cute, but not as spiritually fulfilling for me.

If you don't have Zen Shorts, get that immediately. If you love Zen Shorts, this isn't a bad idea but isn't a must-have.
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