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The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth
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The Three Questions (2002)

by Jon J. Muth

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Based upon a story of the same name, written by the celebrated 19th-century Russian novelist and moral philosopher, Leo Tolstoy, this lovely picture-book from author/illustrator Jon J. Muth imagines a young boy named Nikolai and his quest to answer the three eponymous questions: What is the best time to do things?, Who is the most important one?, and What is the right thing to do? When Nikolai's animal friends - Sonya the heron, Gogol the monkey and Pushkin the dog - cannot give him satisfactory answers, he sets out to the mountain home of Leo the turtle. Once there, his actions in helping Leo to garden, and in rescuing a panda mother and son from a storm, preclude him from getting his answers. Or do they...?

Although I am sorry to say that I have never read the original by Tolstoy - I certainly hope to, now! - I nevertheless enjoyed The Three Questions immensely. Having read author/illustrator Jon J. Muth's books about Stillwater the panda (Zen Shorts, etc.), it came as no surprise to discover that this was a teaching tale. As is so often the case in stories such as this, the hero's journey is what provides him with the answers in the end, and through the aid he offers others, Nikolai does indeed get the answers he's seeking. Simple but profound - the time to do things is now, the most important people are the ones you are with now, and the right thing to do is to help those people - these answers feel right, and have the feeling almost of self-evidence, once one has read them. A thoughtful book, one that satisfies both as a story and a teaching tale, this is one that can be used to strike up a more philosophical discussion with children. The artwork, done in watercolor, is vintage Muth: beautiful and light-infused. Highly recommended, both to Muth fans and to anyone seeking more philosophical children's books. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Mar 21, 2019 |
The picture book, The Three Questions, tells a beautiful story of a boy named Nikolai who is searching for answers to "the three questions"-- "When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?" He calls upon his friends--a heron, a monkey, and a dog to try to answer his questions but not to his satisfaction. I loved this story because he was not given an answer his questions but rather shown the answer to his questions. In being a compassionate human being through helping his friend Leo and saving and panda and her child, he is shown that the best time to do things is now and with the people you are surrounded by. It encourages readers to be there mentally and physically with the people you are with and to do good by them here and now. ( )
  emay3 | Feb 26, 2019 |
Based on the story by Leo Tolstoy, this beautiful book teaches readers the importance of mercy, gentleness, and purposeful living. Young Nikolai has three questions. "When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?" He seeks out old turtle in search for answers. A beautiful book for all ages. ( )
  stephaniepulver | Jan 20, 2019 |
A children’s take on the tale by Tolstoy, this book focuses on Nikolai’s desire to be a good person. ( )
  ambreecote | Nov 26, 2018 |
Nikolai asks his animal friends to help him answer three important questions: ""When is the best time to do things?"" ""Who is the most important?"" and ""What is the right thing to do?""
  reassist | Nov 16, 2018 |
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There once was a boy named Nikolai who sometimes felt uncertain about the right way to act.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0439199964, Hardcover)

Nikolai is a boy who believes that if he can find the answers to his three questions, he will always know how to be a good person. His friends--a heron, a monkey, and a dog--try to help, but to no avail, so he asks Leo, the wise old turtle. "When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?" Leo doesn't answer directly, but by the end of Nikolai's visit, the boy has discovered the answers himself.

Award-winning illustrator Jon J Muth's lovely watercolors are the most appealing aspect of this book about compassion and living in the moment. The simple Zen-based profundity of the boy's philosophical exploration may escape young readers, but they will enjoy the tale of a child who, in doing good deeds (for a panda and her baby, no less!), finds inner peace. Muth based his story on a short story of the same title by Leo Tolstoy. (Ages 5 to 9) --Emilie Coulter

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:36 -0400)

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Nikolai asks his animal friends to help him answer three important questions: "When is the best time to do things?" "Who is the most important?" and "What is the right thing to do?"

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