Friday, October 5, 2018

Review - Zen Ghosts

Zen Ghosts
by Jon J. Muth
Date: 2010
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

It's Halloween.

The trees are ablaze in fiery reds. Excited children don colorful costumes. And there's mystery and fun around every corner! When Addy, Michael, and Karl finish trick-or-treating, their bags are brimming with treats. But the fun isn't over yet. Their good friend Stillwater the panda has one more special surprise in store for them. A mysterious visitor is about to tell them a spine-tingling story -- one that will fill each and every reader with wonder.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

It's October, so I thought I should probably read at least one Halloween story. I happened to see this e-book in the library system, so I thought I'd give it a try.

This is the second picture book I've read that tries to teach elements of Zen to young children (the first one being Sanjay Nambiar's Maybe: A Little Zen for Little Ones, which I thought was pretty awful). I'm not sure it's something that the age group is really ready for. I understand why the author thinks the topic is appropriate for children, and I agree to a certain extent. But many children today are very literal thinkers, and puzzling over a koan probably isn't going to be a very useful experience.

The pictures are lovely, and I wouldn't mind checking out more books illustrated by this author/artist. However, I did find some of the plot points a bit unnerving. Three little kids go trick-or-treating alone, and then they're told by a giant talking panda to meet him somewhere so he can take them off to his house to tell them a ghost story. Does that not sound like child luring to you? The added element of candy just makes it all the more uncomfortable. (I realize these kids have some sort of past with Stillwater the panda, but I still didn't like the way they just went off with him without parental consent. Adult family friends can and do take advantage of children, and I don't know if this message of explicit trust is the best one to be sending.)

So... "yes" to the pictures, "maybe" to the koan, "no" to the rest of the story. I hoped to like this one more than I did, but I just can't get past the slightly creepy panda taking three unsupervised children to his house. Maybe I'm just too paranoid/cynical for books like this.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.67 out of 5

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