5 years ago, someone gave us a couple children’s picture books. She bought them for her grandchildren, but her grandchildren hadn’t shown any interest. We had a 7-year old at the time, so she gave them to us.

One of those books was Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth. It’s a Caldicott honor book. Watercolor and pencil illustrations on some pages. Ink drawings on others. The book came with a plushy panda wearing shorts.

3 children, Michael, Karl and Addy, make friends with Stillwater the panda. When they visit him he tells them stories from the Zen tradition.

It has become one of my favorite books. I keep it on the lamp stand next to my chair. I never get tired of looking at it.

The sequel, Zen Ties, is also good. Stillwater’s nephew who speaks in haiku comes to visit. That one is on the shelf nearby, too, and I sometimes look at it.

But the first one is essential.