Recommended for ages K to 2nd
Unique ghost story just in time for Halloween…
It should come as no surprise to people who know me that Jon Muth’s character, Stillwater, is one of my favorites…hint: on the cover, he’s the one who is black and white. Stillwater, aside from being a panda, is very wise and has managed to take siblings, Michael, Addy, and Karl through some wonderful Zen stories (Zen Shorts and Zen Ties). Muth’s most recent contribution is Zen Ghosts. Right away, several of my favorite things are combined into one story—picturebook with an enlightened purpose, pandas, and Halloween/ghost stories.
This time around—the excitement for siblings Michael, Addy, and Karl is all in the decision of what they get to be for Halloween. The youngest sibling, Karl has decided to be a monster, reminiscent of Godzilla—in the illustrations, his monster mask displays the same emotions that Karl feels or is acting out (quite delightful, actually). And even though Karl declares that Michael has to decide on one thing to be, Michael ends up being an “Owl-Pirate.”
Stillwater invites the siblings to his house to hear a ghost story after they are done trick-or-treating. The storyteller they meet, mysteriously enough, is another panda that resembles Stillwater. This panda tells them the Zen story called “Senjo and Her Soul Are Separated.” It is an old Chinese ghost story, called a “koan” or a story where you have to answer the question for yourself. The story would make a great discussion of how one acts different with different people.
At the end, the only panda left in the room is the storyteller (Stillwater) and where the other panda was, there is now only a mask. This is one picturebook that not only offers a wonderful story, but beautiful illustrations as well.
Muth, J. J. (2010). Zen ghosts. New York, NY: Scholastic.