Jon J. Muth
Ages and up
Scholastic, 2003, 0-439-19996-4
Nikolai wants very much to be a good person, but sometimes he is not always sure how to go about being such a person. He has three questions for which he wishes he had the answers. He is sure that if he had the answers he would be able to “always know what to do.” Nikolai then tells his three friends what his three questions are: “When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?” They listen carefully to the boy, and then they tell him what they think the answers are. Each of Nikolai’s friends (a heron called Sonya, a monkey called Gogol, and a dog called Pushkin) have different answers, and though he appreciates hearing their words, Nikolai cannot help feeling that “their answers didn’t seem quite right.”
So Nikolai goes to see Leo the turtle who is very old and wise and who may know the answers to the three questions. Nikolai experiences many adventures and dangers. He finds himself helping others who need his aid, and doing so gives him great pleasure. Helping others also helps him to understand the nature of his questions, and the answers to them.
This wonderful version of a story told by Leo Tolstoy is powerful and heart-warming. We are reminded that the important things in life are often the things that are right in front of us. All we have to do is look into our hearts and the answers will come.
With glorious watercolour paintings that have a definite Asian influence to them, “The Three Questions” is a book which can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. The author provides a note at the back of the book to explain the book and how he came to create it.