Fortunately, society has come a long way over the last one-hundred years regarding racism, bigotry, and intolerance. But there are still too many instances of these hurtful and irrational mindsets. How can we infuse the next generation with an open-minded love for all people they meet, no matter their color? Meet Zen – a brash, proud, and animated zebra that can beat any animal on the savanna in a race. But when he chances upon a herd of his own who believe that they are superior to other zebras merely because of the order of their stripes, their narrow-mindedness is immediately apparent to Zen, who decides to straighten out their worldviews by showing them how wrong they are once and for all. “Race-ism” – not racism! – is the only type of “argument” Zen wishes to engage in.
The dynamic illustrations by Robert Nailon truly bring this wonderful and charming character to life, and the text of the author (William Tellem) silences any future discussion or debate regarding racism with flawless, crystal-clear logic. Young readers will easily understand the irrationality of dismissing someone as inferior merely because of the “pigmentation of their stripes.” It is a mark of Tellem’s fantastic writing skills that he is able to tenderly address such a serious topic with such vitality and energy – all while producing a lighthearted and humorous masterpiece that doubles as a fable-like classic. Zen the Zebra is at once a magnum opus decrying the injustice of racism while entertaining toddlers and adults alike.
Zen teaches us that judging someone by the color of their eyes (or the shade of their skin) is just as absurd as judging a zebra by the pattern of its stripes. With the right mindset, we can all “empty our minds” and come to the true understanding – that there really is no difference between all human beings (or zebras, for that matter!).
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