Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sean's question ~ Jon J Muth

Jon J Muth
Sean commented on yesterday's post, "Like the artwork on Zen Shorts.  Is it illustrated in the same style inside?"  Yes, and since my cell phone photos aren't as sharp as they could be, I looked online for some of the beautiful artwork from the book to show Sean.  That's when I discovered just how many books Jon J Muth has illustrated.  I went to the library today and got a whole bunch of books by Muth and read them for this post, just for Sean — and me, because I'm enjoying his artwork — and you, because I'm sure you'll enjoy the pictures, too.

Zen Shorts ~ by Jon J Muth, 2005, children's, 8/10
This is the cover Sean likes, showing Stillwater, a chubby panda who moved into the neighborhood and became friends with two brothers and a sister.  Stillwater retells three Zen tales, one to each child.  Addy hears about forgiveness in "Uncle Ry and the Moon."  Michael (shown sitting in the treetop with Stillwater, above) learns about acceptance in "The Farmer's Luck," and Karl learns about generosity in "A Heavy Load."  I rate it 8 of 10, a very good book.
Zen Ties ~ by Jon J Muth, 2008, children's, 9/10
I reviewed this book a couple of weeks ago, showing both covers and an inside illustration.  My artist friend Jane and I both really like this one.  In it, Stillwater's "haiku-speaking young nephew" Koo arrives for a visit and meets the three children from the previous book.  I rate it 9 of 10, an excellent book.
Zen Ghosts ~ by Jon J Muth, 2010, children's, 6/10
This is a Halloween story, with the trees ablaze in fiery reds.  When Addy, Michael, and Karl finish trick-or-treating, their bags are brimming with treats.  But Stillwater the panda tells them a story that, even as a teacher of world religions, I didn't really enjoy.  I rate this one only 6 of 10, above average, for the artwork.
The Three Questions: Based on a Story by Leo Tolstoy ~ by Jon J Muth, 2009, children's, 9/10
Jon J Muth has transformed a story by Tolstoy into a timeless fable for young readers.   Nikolai knows that he wants to be the best person he can be, but often he is unsure if he is doing the right thing.  So he goes to ask Leo, the wise turtle:  "What is the best time to do things?  Who is the most important one?  What is the right thing to do?"  When he arrives, the turtle is struggling to dig in his garden, and Nikolai rushes to help him.  As he finishes work, a violent storm rolls in.  Nikolai runs for Leo's cottage, but on his way, he hears cries for help from an injured panda.  Nikolai brings her in from the cold, and then rushes back outside to rescue her baby too.  Since this is a children's book and I presume you, my readers, are all adults, I'm going to give away the punch line, where the wise turtle says:
"Remember then that that there is only one important time, and that time is now.  The most important one is always the one you are with.  And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.  For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world.  This is why we are here."
I rate this one 9 of 10, an excellent book.
Old Turtle and the Broken Truth ~ by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Jon J Muth, 2003, children's, 10/10
I've loved this one for years — and have my own copy in a box somewhere.  The earth and all its creatures are suffering, because the people will not share their truth with those who are different from them.  Their truth gives them happiness and power.  Then one brave little girl seeks the wisdom of the ancient Old Turtle, who sees that the people's truth is not a whole truth, but broken.  Old Turtle shows the girl the missing part of the truth, and the little girl returns with it to her people.  When the pieces are brought together, the broken truth is made whole at last — "You are loved ... and so are they."  It's a ten (10 of 10), couldn't put it down.
Why I Will Never Ever Ever Ever Have Enough Time to Read This Book ~ by Remy Charlip, illustrated by Jon J Muth, 2000, children's, 7/10
There's more to this clever book than initially meets the eye. A busy girl struggles from sun-up to sundown to squirrel away time to read, but something always seems to get in the way--a shower ("Careful! Don't get the book wet!"), a breakfast of cereal ("Who left this book in the fridge?"), and so forth. Sure enough, by nightfall she still hasn't managed to finish her book.  Readers will enjoy seeing the very same page they're looking at almost every time the girl manages to sneak a peek at it.  I rate it 7/10, a good book.
Mr. George Baker ~ by Amy Hest, illustrated by Jon J Muth, 2004, children's, 9/10
This one is special, with two fellows nearly a century apart in age both learning to read, "which is hard."  While they sit side by side waiting for the school bus to come, the two have plenty in common, this hundred-year-old musician with the crookedy fingers going tappidy on his knees and the young schoolboy whose shoelaces always need tying.  I rate it 9 of 10, an excellent book.
A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children ~ by Caroline Kennedy, illustrated by Jon J Muth, 2005, poetry, 10/10
This anthology celebrates poetry's ability to connect us like family.  Caroline Kennedy has chosen a rich variety of Kennedy family favorites to include in this collection.  She has added thoughtful personal introductions.  A lot of these poems are ones I memorized in school, and over the years I've enjoyed many of the others.  Somebody folded down a corner of the page for this one, when they read this library book before I got it:

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Christina Rosseti
I especially like Muth's illustrations of William Blake's "Tyger! Tyger! burning bright" (above) and "Some Opposites" (here), showing a girl between mirrors, with images of her repeating and repeating. I rate it 10 of 10 because its combination of great poems and great paintings mean it can be enjoyed by adults as much as children.

I Will Hold You 'Til You Sleep ~ by Linda Zuckerman, illustrated by Jon J. Muth, 2006, children's, 8/10
It begins with a wish at bedtime, while holding a child tight.  It continues when the child has grown up and can pass that love on to someone else.  It goes beyond loving one's child to hoping our children will make the world a better place. It ends with the blessing: "Love and be loved all your life."  I rate it 8 of ten, a good book.

Come On, Rain! ~ by Karen Hesse, illustrated by Jon J. Muth, 1999, children's, 9/10
A young girl eagerly awaits a coming rainstorm to bring relief from the oppressive summer heat.  "Come on, rain!" Tess pleads to the sky as listless vines and parched plants droop in the endless heat.  Then the clouds roll in and the rain pours.  And Tess, her friends, and their mothers join in together in a rain dance to celebrate the shower that renews both body and spirit.  When it finally rains, the girls grab their mothers' hands and everyone dances!
Muth paired the girls with their mothers:  pink, yellow, blue, and green.  I rate this one 9 of 10, an excellent book.
We swing our wet and wild-haired mammas 'til we're all laughing under trinkets of silver rain.
Thanks, Sean, for asking the question.  I rate Jon J Muth a "ten" as an artist.  I am really enjoying his artwork.

1 comment:

Sean Wright said...

I really appreciate good water colours. My wife's a water colour artist (landscapes). Very hard medium to get right. Thanks Bonnie