Monday, September 27, 2010

The Three Questions

Pic source google
The Three Questions - Based on a Story by Leo Tolstoy
Author/ Illustrator- Jon Muth
Scholastic Press
Ages 5 to 10

This reflective tale for children is an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's story of the same name published in 1903. To make it easier for children to relate to it, the author uses a young boy Nikolai and his animal friends as the key characters.

Nikolai is looking for answers to three rather profound questions- since he feels that they would be the key to being a good person at all times. His friends- a monkey, a heron and a dog- with amusing name choices (explained by the author in his note) - provide what they think are the answers. The boy remains dissatisfied with these answers and goes seeking a wise old turtle .

He does not get any direct answers from Leo the turtle, to his questions-
When is the best time to do things?
Who is the most important one?
What is the right thing to do?"

But when a storm strikes and Nikolai rescues a panda and its baby, he finds the answers in his actions, with Leo's help. The messages are clear- live in the moment, focus on what is immediate and be kind and selfless.

As Leo says, "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."

The nicest thing about the book is that the reader is also allowed to conclude that following the above would lead to peace and joy.

As an adult, I thoroughly enjoyed the afterword which describes Tolstoy briefly and this author's adaptation. It also provided me a good opening to introduce Tolstoy Thaatha ( grandpa) and also Russia to my daughter.

While younger kids may not be as introspective and philosophical as Nikolai, they will still enjoy the story and get the message at some level. They may also be amused at Nikolai carrying a huge panda in his arms or the monkey's funny answers.

The visuals are captivating and done in muted water colour. There is misty feel that lends a bit of space and poetry with just a dash of bright colour in the form of a red kite which finally soars high at the end of the tale.

The text is easy to read. Simple and no frills. This is a story that will grow with you and on you.

14 comments:

ChoxBox said...

Wow Art. Sounds brilliant. The cover looks beautiful.

And smiling at 'Tolstoy Thaatha'!

artnavy said...

the book is beautiful- utbt i think has reviewed another by this author in her panda stories

Any older person is thaatha here- so we have SR(K) uncle and Tolstoy thaatha and even Kempegouda thaatha!!

sandhya said...

Lovely! Something adults can also learn from.

Arundhati said...

Excellent find, thanks for sharing this

artnavy said...

sandhya- you said it

arundathi- welcome ! do go over to utbt's post if would like more by this author

http://www.saffrontree.org/2007/09/pandamania-in-our-household.html

utbtkids said...

Art, Pandamania post was by Praba. Auctually I am honored that you thought that the eloquent post was by me :)

On a different note, we have read three questions and I think it is time to revisit it.

We loved Zen shorts.

Muth's illustrations are so zen ain't it?!

artnavy said...

praba/ utbt- i stand corrected

ChoxBox said...

@utbt: I THOUGHT the name/artwork looked familiar. Zen Shorts is faaaaaaab. As is Zen Ties. Both by Jon Muth. Totally the kind of books you can read and read again and gush over again.

Sheela said...

As you noted, Art, the illustrations are gorgeous - serene, contemplative, especially the pages with the blues - yet with a lot of movement. I liked the "This is why we are here" conclusion... it gives Ana a sense of purpose, even if at its nascent form...

I pull it from our bookshelf every 4 or 5 months to see if Ana has something new to assimilate, add... like you said, at five kids are not as introspective, but the presentation manages to get the message through.

Vibha said...

Excellent pick Art. Must look for this immediately. We are collecting books for he dussehra holidays these days, this books goes directly in the list. Thanks.

Meera Sriram said...

Yes, I agree, it seems like a great one to introduce Tolstoy! Like the cover a lot.

artnavy said...

sheela- yes they do get the message dont they?

vibha- hope the kids like it- this weekend is a long one as well....

meera- i need to read the original one soon

Sunita (Poppy) said...

Sounds awesome Art!

artnavy said...

it was good- am waiting for Zen Shorts at my library

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