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The Three Questions [Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy] Hardcover – April 1, 2002


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The Three Questions [Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy] + Zen Shorts (Caldecott Honor Book) + Zen Ties
Price for all three: $37.90

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 410L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1st edition (April 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439199964
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439199964
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 12.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

From Publishers Weekly

Muth (Come On, Rain!) recasts a short story by Tolstoy into picture-book format, substituting a boy and his animal friends for the czar and his human companions. Yearning to be a good person, Nikolai asks, "When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?" Sonya the heron, Gogol the monkey and Pushkin the dog offer their opinions, but their answers do not satisfy Nikolai. He visits Leo, an old turtle who lives in the mountains. While there, he helps Leo with his garden and rescues an injured panda and her cub, and in so doing, finds the answers he seeks. As Leo explains, "There is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side." Moral without being moralistic, the tale sends a simple and direct message unfreighted by pomp or pedantry. Muth's art is as carefully distilled as his prose. A series of misty, evocative watercolors in muted tones suggests the figures and their changing relationships to the landscape. Judicious flashes of color quicken the compositions, as in the red of Nikolai's kite (the kite, released at the end, takes on symbolic value). An afterword describes Tolstoy and his work. Ages 6-up.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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This is a wonderful book with beautiful illustrations.
Shannon
I purchased two copies to give as gifts to new parents--because it will be a book to keep and read to children again and again.
Lavonne Rhyneer
This book tells a story that helps children learn one of the most important lessons in life.
Dr. Thomas M. Krapu

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

134 of 139 people found the following review helpful By Roz Levine on May 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"There was once a boy named Nikolai who sometimes felt uncertain about the right way to act..." He wanted to be a good person, but was unsure how to accomplish his goal. Nikolai had three important questions...When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? "If only I could find the answers to my three questions... then I would always know what to do." So he decides to seek the counsel of Leo, the turtle. "He has lived a very long time. Surely he will know the answers I am looking for." But as he reaches Leo's home, high in the mountains, disaster strikes, and without even thinking Nikolai takes action, and in the process finds the answers he's been searching for..... Based on Leo Tolstoy's short story, Jon Muth has authored a reflective and inspired picture book retelling of The Three Questions. His simple and eloquent text, with its gentle message of compassion and living for each moment, is enhanced by lovely and evocative watercolor artwork in quiet and subdued tones. Together word and art answer Nikolai's questions in a captivating and engaging way..."Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world." With an Author's Note at the end to augment the story and introduce Tolstoy and his works, The Three Questions is a perfect fable for youngsters 5-9, and is sure to open interesting and thoughtful discussions.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By M. Swinney on February 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
What is the best time to do things? Who is the most important ones? What is the right thing to do? So I hope that doesn't give it away for you, but that's the book's central search...a boy Nikolai, his three friends Sonya the Heron, Gogol the Monkey, Pushkin the Dog, and the final answers are facilitated by Leo the wise Turtle. The watercolor art is the true gem in this book and the Zen-exercise in the meaning of life takes a close second.

"The Three Questions," is currently my two year old's nightly request...although he sometimes asks for the three questions and sometimes ask for the "Nikolai" book. The writing is really to engage children of older ages but something about the characters, language, and pictures connect with children and adults of all ages.

The esoteric Zen exercise may seem a little off-putting or prententious to some, but it gets kids thinking about morality and ethics at an early age. It gets kids thinking about what is the best approach to life and an approach to be mindful about the present and others.

A wonderful wonderful book with beautiful art throughout. This one comes recommended as a magical treatise on thinking about life.

--MMW
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful and very touching book with a special message of love, compassion and introspection. These themes could be deep for a child but they are conveyed with characters and images that captivate and draw in the reader, whether young and old. The story is very touching and nurturing and the themes are ones that a person is never to young to be introduced to. I collect children's books and count this one among one of my favorites.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Dawn Matheson on March 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Author Jon J Muth certainly understands the uncertainties that children face. His main character, Nikolai, asks his three best friends the questions he thinks are most important. If he only knew their answers, he believes, he will be a good person. Recognizing his friends' limitations, however, Nikolai wisely seeks further for his answers, and visits a wise old turtle. The turtle never answers him directly, but when a storm comes up and two panda bears are in danger, Nikolai dashes to their aid without a thought for himself. In his action, he finds answers.

This is a gentle tale, told well. Muth's illustrations are graceful and elegant, and beautifully enhance the many moods of the story. Based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy, who is probably best-known for War and Peace and Anna Karenina, The Three Questions succeeds in getting children to think of being of service to others. And to realize that, contrary to what advertisers would have us believe, life isn't about getting; it's about doing.

[...]
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on May 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The three questions What is the right thing to do? Who is the most important one? And when is the best time to do things? are very tricky questions to answer. These three little questions have a different anwser every time. A young boy tries to find the answers with the help of an old turlte and his animal friends the heron, the monkey, and the dog. The young boy finds the anwsers by helping a mother panda bear and her cub. Now i wont tell you what the answers are, so you will have to read it on your own.

The young boy in this story is very intelligent and very helpful. The author John J. Muth uses excellent words that actully make you think on what is happening. He doent go out and say what the problem is. He also expresses a really good lesson on life. I think that this is a great book for the ages 6-12. Me, being 13, dont read many short stories anymore. But i loved this book. I believe that you will love it too if you get it now!
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