The Three Questions

Author and illustrator Jon J Muth retells one of Leo Tolstoy’s classic tales in the picture book The Three Questions.

In his retelling, the main character is a boy who asks three important questions of his friends, a crane, a monkey and a dog.

His questions are: When is the best time to do things?  Who is the most important one?  What is the right thing to do?

His friends all give the answers they think are best – but none agree.  So the boy decides to seek out the wise turtle.

Once he finds the turtle, he ends up spending several days there, seeing needs and helping out.  As he gets ready to leave, he turns sadly to the turtle, remarking that his questions haven’t been answered.

“But they have,” answer the turtle, and goes on to explain the answer to each question.

I haven’t read Tolstoy’s original short story, but this book has inspired me to do so.  In the author’s note at the end, he mentions a big difference between his picture book and the original story – one which would make the short story a masterpiece, but leaves the picture book lacking.  I understand why Muth left it out – it’s difficult to explain to children – but would have added depth and dimension.

When I first read The Three Questions, I enjoyed it, but felt like something was missing.  After reading the author’s note, now I know, look forward to reading the original story.

Still recommended for ages 4 – 11.

Thanks to my friend, Laura Cappelletti, for recommending this book to me.

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