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Lions Roar : January 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2012 78 He passes away peacefully, never to be reborn again into samsara, the realm of cyclical existence. It’s a moving story that’s beautifully told. If you’re not comfortable with the notion of rebirth, this book might not be for you. But if you’re open to it, and wish to help your child understand it, Sam- sara Dog is an invaluable tool. Jon J. Muth is the author of numerous Buddhist-inspired children’s books, such as Stone Soup, The Three Questions, Zen Shorts, and most recently, Zen Ghosts. While my son and I have enjoyed all of these books together, our favorite Muth story is Zen Ties (Scholastic). In Zen Ties, the wise and gentle panda Stillwater meets up with his young friends Addy, Michael, and Karl (these characters are also fea- tured in Zen Shorts and Zen Ghosts). Stillwater asks the children to accompany him to the home of a retired school- teacher named Miss Whitaker, a woman they fear and dislike. Despite their pro- tests, Stillwater quickly puts the children to work making soup for the elderly woman and cleaning her house. Their kindness softens the normally crabby Miss Whitaker and she begins tutor- ing Michael for an upcoming spelling bee that he’s been worried about. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that any animosity the children and Miss Whita- ker once felt for each other was the result of misunderstanding and ignorance, and that only compassion can heal the divide. The story is punctuated by Stillwater’s young haiku-reciting nephew, Koo, who offers plenty of wisdom of his own. Buddha at Bedtime by British author Dharmachari Nagaraja (Duncan Baird Publishers) is a valuable resource as well as collection of Buddhist stories. It begins with a simple introduction to Buddhism and meditation for parents, along with a relaxation exercise that parents can do with their children before reading a story. I found the exercise helpful in set- tling my son, who is normally very active, even at bedtime. The stories are Nagaraja’s anger. I’ll come in when you’re calm and able to talk.” I’ve bor- rowed that line many times since I first read it. When Anh retreats to his bedroom, a redheaded mon- ster appears who tells him he’s the boy’s anger. Though at first Anh is frightened by the monster, soon they begin to talk and play and dance, and finally to meditate. It’s a wonderful lesson in befriending and accepting all parts of our- selves, even the ugly, angry sides that we wish we could hide. It teaches children not to run away from strong emotions, but rather to stay with them and allow them to dissolve on their own. The follow-up to Anh’s Anger, Steps and Stones, once again features Anh and his redheaded monster friend, this time meeting during a moment of anger and frustration at recess. It’s a fine companion to the first book, exploring the practice of walking meditation in terms that any child (or adult) can understand. Some books influence how we think, while others like Samsara Dog have the ability to transform it. This story by Helen Manos (Kane/Miller Book Publishers) is about a dog that is reborn again and again until at last it attains enlightenment. It begins with the dog living on the streets. In this life, “Dog loved nobody. Dog trusted nobody.” Each successive life, the dog finds greater companionship and kind- ness, and each of his deaths is mourned more than the last. Finally the dog meets a boy living by the ocean and they become inseparable friends. At the end of the dog’s life, the boy thanks him for his great love, and the dog’s heart is filled with joy. Above: Samsara Dog. Below: Zen Ties.