Jon Muth’s career in children's books grew out of a desire to explore what he was feeling as a new father. He had been successfully working in comics, which he described as a natural forum for expressions of angst, until the births of his children caused a “seismic shift that made it important to say other things about the world.” The first book he authored and exquisitely illustrated, The Three Questions, based on Leo Tolstoy’s story of timeless and universal truths, was called “quietly life-changing” by The New York Times Book Review. His version of Stone Soup, an inspiring folk tale about the strength of community, received critical acclaim, including a National Parenting Book Award.
And then there is the Zen series, beginning with Zen Shorts, named a Caldecott Honor book, with its quiet meditations that challenge readers to reexamine their habits, desires, and fears. Followed by Zen Ties, Zen Ghosts, and Zen Socks, all feature the character Stillwater, a spiritual teacher who happens to be a giant Panda. The stories also introduce Koo, Stillwater’s haiku-speaking nephew, who is featured in a collection of poems called Hi, Koo!. Muth partnered with Caroline Kennedy to illustrate the compilations Family of Poems and Poems to Learn by Heart, and he illustrated Bob Dylan’s beloved lyric, Blowin’ in the Wind. Nearly seventy watercolor, ink, and pastel illustrations from these and nine other children’s books comprise Zen Tales, on view in the Mind’s Eye Gallery.
Jon Muth grew up visiting art museums; studied painting, drawing, and printmaking; and later visited Japan to practice stone sculpture and brush calligraphy. He has had a lifelong interest in Asian studies, including tai chi chuan; sumi ink drawing; and chado, “the way of the tea.” His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether you go or not, Zen Shorts, Zen Socks, Zen Ties, Zen Ghosts, and Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons are classic stories for 4 - 8 year year olds, written and delightfully illustrated by Jon Muth.