"My work in children's books really grew out of a desire to explore what I was feeling as a new father. At the time, I was working in comics -- a natural forum for expressions of angst and questioning one's place in the universe. With the births of my children, there was a kind of seismic shift in where my work seemed appropriate -- it became important to say other things about the world.

Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, I drew and drew and drew and drew, and painted. Drawing was my way of making things exist which didn't exist. And writing became a way to have my drawings interact. My mother was an art teacher and she took me to visit museums all over the United States. I studied painting, drawing and printmaking in several schools here and in Europe. Then I had the good fortune to apprentice with two very brilliant but very different artists. One was a romantic realist and the other was a neo-dadaist. I went on to study stone sculpture and sho (brush calligraphy) in Japan.

When I am painting in the right state of mind, my hand disappears, the brush disappears, the paint stops being paint, and all that exists is the thing that's becoming. I am all of those things at one time. This happens naturally when every effort is concentrated on the moment and letting go of expectations. This doesn't mean "anything goes" -- often I will do an image over and over until it offers what that precise moment in the story needs. It is a balance of being open to all possibilities and also discovering what is necessary.

Zen Shorts came from wondering, "What it would be like to live down the street from a Zen master... who happened to be a Giant Panda?" My stories often come from questions, "Why is this so?"... "If this, then why not that?"... and of course, "What if...?" Sometimes words come first and sometimes an image will prod a story out into the open. I might see a girl opening a door in my mind's eye but I can't see what she is looking at. When I consider these questions with careful attention -- without expectations -- they tend to open my eyes to the world in new ways."

Jon J Muth's children's books have received numerous awards and critical acclaim. Stone Soup, a familiar tale that he set in China won a National Parenting Book Award. The New York Times Book Review called Muth's The Three Questions, "quietly life-changing". Books he has illustrated include Come On, Rain!, written by Karen Hesse, which won the Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators in 1999. Gershon's Monster by Eric Kimmel, was an ALA Notable Children¹s book, winner of the Sydney Taylor Award, as well as a National Parenting Book Award, and was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. No Dogs Allowed, written by Sonia Manzano was chosen as one of the Best Children's Books of the Year by CHILD Magazine. Zen Shorts is a New York Times Bestseller as well as being a Quill Award nominee, and was awarded the 2006 Caldecott Honor. Kirkus Review said "Every word and image comes to make as perfect a picture book as can be." Hyperion has just published a A Family of Poems, a collection of poetry which Muth illustrated for Caroline Kennedy.

Jon currently lives with his family in upstate New York, flying kites with his son, dancing with his daughter, and planting trees with his wife. He is astonished at his good fortune.

Click [here] for an interview with Jon J Muth