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Monday Book Review: “Zen Shorts,” by Jon J. Muth; “La Princesa and the Pea,” by Susan Middleton Elya & Juana Martinez-Neal; and “There’s Nothing to Do,” by Dev Petty and Mike Boldt

September 11th, 2017

“Zen Shorts,” by Jon J. Muth (Scholastic Press, New York, 2005, for readers of all ages, $16.95) How can it be that I’ve never reviewed any Muth books here? He’s so good. His writing was described by the New York Times Book Review as “quietly life-changing,” and that sums it up nicely.

(He acknowledges his friends in the book, saying that “Despite my great efforts to get in my own way, my great friends Dianne Hess and David Saylor have graciously cleared the path once more.” #humility #art #greatfriends #perfect)

“Zen Shorts” includes three Zen short stories, as told by Stillwater the Bear: “Uncle Ry and the Moon,” “The Farmer’s Luck” and “A Heavy Load.”

Muth uses watercolors and ink to illustrate his books, and the drawings, along with the stories, soar right off the pages. I turn to him often in my teaching and all of my students, from the littles to the high schoolers, respond well to his work.

“La Princesa and the Pea,” written by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal (Penguin Random House, 2017, ages 4 and up, $16.99) Fun book, and I love the way the author wove Spanish and English together, kind of like the Peruvian textiles the art in the book is based on. Beautiful work. (You might know the authors from their previous children’s book, “La Madre Goose.”)

The glossary in the front of the book is handy, and the story is tart and funny. Good read.

“There’s Nothing to Do!” written by Dev Petty, illustrated by Mike Boldt. (Random House Children’s Books, 2017, 32 pages, ages 3-7, $16.99) The big mouth frog from “I Don’t Want to Be a Frog” and “I Don’t Want to Be Big” is back for more fun in this playful picture book.

“Want to go for a swim?”
“Too wet.”

You know he’s bored. Pig, cat, owl and his other friends, are no help at all. What will our hero do?

Sweet and funny.

Bon appetit!


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