Jon J Muth Books

Book Reviews - Books for Building Your Library

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Rating 0% (0 Votes)

Choosing which of Jon J Muth's books to include in this list of ten titles was a challenge. Let this list be your starting point for investigating his immense body of work, ranging from comic books to illustrations of poetry.

The Three Questions

When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? These are The Three Questions, as retold by Jon J Muth from the timeless Leo Tolstoy short story from a collection of short stories entitled What Men Live by and Other Tales, written in 1885. The central character Nikolai (the name of Tolstoy's beloved brother, whom Jon J Muth named his son after) has three friends: Sonya the heron, Gogol the monkey and Pushkin the dog. Each is symbolic of a particular aspect of human philosophical endeavor. This book promises to give students of all ages a lot to think, talk, and write about. The three questions are in essence the one eternal question that has plagued humankind since the beginning: How am I to be a good person? Nikolai poses the three questions to each of his three friends but none of their answers seem to ring true. So he climbs high into the mountains, seeking the wisest of the wise, Leo the turtle, who lives alone there. Does Nikolai find the wise Leo the turtle and the answers he seeks high in the mountains? You will find the answers you seek and perhaps your own enlightenment in The Three Questions written and harmoniously illustrated by Jon J Muth.

Click here to view this book in Amazon +
Click here to view this book in Amazon +

In My Dreams I Can Fly

Five friends -- a grub, a beetle, a caterpillar, and two worms -- prepare for a long winter, but none of them know the changes that are coming. Eveline Hasler brings us a delightful and intricate story of life underground as the seasons change. With detailed and charming illustration, Käthi Bhend's pictures propel the story forward toward events paradoxically predictable and unexpected. You will find yourself studying the pictures closely for the tiny details Bhend offers us. Enjoy the complexities of the underground tunnels and caverns along with the complexities of the characters and the storyline. This is a story of friendship, truth, change, and hope. We predict that you will love it for its originality and its tenderness.

Zen Shorts

Caldecott Honor award winner Zen Shorts is the first book in a trilogy of Zen books written and illustrated by Jon J Muth. The main character is a very large but very kind panda bear named Stillwater. Three siblings make friends with Stillwater and benefit from his wise stories and gentle manner. The stories that Stillwater tells in Zen Shorts come from Taoism and ancient Zen Buddhist literature. All three books (Zen Shorts, Zen Ties, and Zen Ghosts) include insightful author's notes that expand and explain key aspects of the large philosophical themes that Muth has woven through his text and illustrations. Zen Ghosts subtley and mysteriously introduces the concept of duality. While some might think such topics are too deep for children, Jon J Muth thinks otherwise. Read Zen Shorts to introduce your children (and yourself!) to a new way of thinking. Afterward, you'll seek out the next two Jon J Muth Zen books to continue your education and expand your thinking.

Click here to view this book in Amazon +
Click here to view this book in Amazon +

City Dog, Country Frog

This book is a first-time collaboration between Mo Willems and Jon J Muth. Bright and open, City Dog, Country Frog is divided into four sections for the four seasons. Jon J Muth's brilliant and kind watercolors set the tone for this sweet book about friends and what they can teach you. Use this book to examine the natural rhythm of life cycles and seasons, as well as the ebb and flow of friendships.

The Stonecutter

When a stonecutter grows weary in his work, he begins searching for identity and satisfaction elsewhere, only to find that what he has been searching for lies within himself. The Stonecutter presents a paradoxical exploration of the complexity of our hearts and the power of simplicity in art. This Chinese folktale, retold by John Karamoto and illustrated by Jon J Muth, is a study in the economy of words and space. The small book carries a profound messages about power and peace, and about discovering who we are. True to the Jon J Muth tradition, The Stonecutter is appropriate for adults and for children, with its delicate prose and thoughtful lines encouraging readers of all ages to linger and to think. Painted in the Shodo tradition of Japanese brush and ink calligraphy, which Jon J Muth studied formally in Japan, each page offers a single, striking, black-ink image against a proportionately expansive open page. With its small presentation, The Stonecutter is a delight to eyes and minds and impossible to read without sharing it with someone.

Click here to view this book in Amazon +
Click here to view this book in Amazon +

Stone Soup

Among the many variations of Stone Soup, Jon J Muth's retelling of this classic tale distinguishes itself from others for the way the main characters are more philosophers than tricksters. The story opens with three travelers discussing "cat whiskers, the color of the sun, and giving." Rather than positioning Hok, Lok, and Siew as clever thieves, Jon J Muth has them notice that the villagers, who do not share with travelers or neighbors, could use the sense of community that a pot of stone soup can bring. Yet again, Jon J Muth entices us to consider the meaning of life and what makes one happy. Contrary to much of society's emphasis on material posessions, this lovely story offers us characters who illustrate that less can be more. Never didactic, always thought-provoking, this Stone Soup offers watercolor Zen to anyone who has sought to understand happiness.

Why I Will Never, Ever, Ever Have Enough Time to Finish this Book

For those of us with nightstands piled with the books we seem to never have time to read, this story chronicles a young girl's day-long effort to read a book. She carries the book, which is actually Why I Will Never, Ever, Ever Have Enough Time to Finish this Book, with her through her daily routine, as she cleans, as she tends a baby, and even as she showers. The detail in Remy Charlip's text mirrors the detail in Jon J Muth's watercolor illustrations, both exploring the intricacies and interests of the main character's extended family. The syncopation of the story and the images pulls the reader in, and may echo your own busy life as you try once again to read that book you long to finish.

Click here to view this book in Amazon +
Click here to view this book in Amazon +

Come on, Rain!

Few books offer a perfect marriage of image and text the way the words of Karen Hesse and the illustrations of Jon J Muth come together in Come On, Rain! After relentless summer heat, the children in an urban apartment complex wait with their mothers for the renewing rain the bulging clouds and greying skies foreshadow. The words and the illustrations are filled with anticipation, which builds in intensity until the skies give way and the rhythmic rain compels mothers and daughters to dance in the streets. Poetic images and image-laden words make this a magical book. Hesse and Muth create characters and settings with such vibrance and authenticity that we find ourselves chanting with them, "Come on, rain!"

Mr. George Baker

After one hundred years of living, Mr. George Baker decides it is time to learn to read. An accomplished jazz drummer, Mr. Baker becomes friends with his first-grade neighbor, Harry, who is also trying to decipher the mysteries of print. They wait for the school bus together and negotiate their ways through beginning reading books in classrooms down the hall from each other. The idea that someone as experienced as Mr. George Baker would decide to learn to read makes a wonderful story, but author Amy Hest captures a more subtle and more powerful theme: Mr. George Baker knows himself. He knows the ways he is already smart and he doesn't question either his worth, even as a non-reader, or his ability to become a reader. Jon J Muth's watercolors offer us the perfect interpretation of Amy Hest's moving story. Jon's illustrations are every bit as enthusiastic and as gentle as we know Mr. George Baker to be.

Click here to view this book in Amazon +
Click here to view this book in Amazon +

Gershon's Monster: A Story For The Jewish New Year

Gershon's Monster is a dramatic retelling of the traditional Hasidic legend for the Jewish New Year. Beautifully illustrated with watercolors by Jon J Muth, this tale conveys universal themes of karma, forgiveness, and being kind to all people. The main character, Gershon, was a man who never said "thank you" or "I'm sorry" and seemed to only think of himself. When faced with a life-changing circumstance, Gershon finally changes his ways, and in turn saves the lives of his children. Eric Kimmel's author's note goes into detail about the Rosh Hashanah ceremony called tashlikh, as well as the five steps of t'shuvah, which has relevance for all no matter what their cultural or religious background.