Stillwaters nephew Koo (who only speaks in haiku&think Hi, Koo!) comes for a visit. The two of them (big and little) spend time with three human friends: Addy, Michael, and Karl. Michael has a small problem, however. Hes going to be in a spelling bee and he doesnt feel prepared. Stillwaters advice, while practical, is a little Confucius-like.
But then Stillwater takes the whole gang to Miss Whitakers house, a retired teacher who isnt feeling well. The kids arent particularly happy about going at first, since they only think of her as a mean old lady who yells at them when they go in her yard.
At first, Miss Whitaker seems like her cross self. But when they all come back the next day, she helps Michael study for his spelling bee. She teaches Addy how to make apple tea from apples that Karl picks for her. And the next time she yells at them, its to tell them to come into her yard and play.
As Muth says in his authors note, one of the goals of Zen Ties is to show that we are all interconnected and interdependent upon one another, whether we realize it or not. The story shows this in subtle ways, much like the delicate watercolor images themselves. Its a sweet book and a feel-good one with beautiful messages of sharing, caring, and love. Its also a great read-aloud picture book, especially with Koos clever little haikus.