“When is the best time to do things?”
“Who is the most important one?”
“What is the right thing to do?”
The answers to these three questions have the power to keep us grounded during some of the most trying and happy times in our life.
In Jon Muth’s book The Three Questions, these questions are subtly addressed through the story of a boy’s journey to seek the answers to these questions for himself. Muth’s story is based on Leo Tolstoy’s short story, “The Three Questions”, which itself was a parable about a king seeking the same answers. Muth adapts Tolstoy’s story into a relatable, beautifully illustrated gem of a book for children.
The story begins with Nikolai, who wants to be the best person he can be, posing the three questions to his friends, the heron, monkey and dog. Each have their own perspective with a twist, that leaves Nikolai unsatiated. Nikolai continues his quest for enlightenment by visiting his turtle friend, Leo. Through a series of events where Nikolai lends his help, Leo teaches Nikolai that the answer to his questions lie within himself.
“When is the best time to do things?”- Now.
“Who is the most important one?”-The one you are with.
“What is the right thing to do?”- Do good for the one you are with.
This book was first published in 2002 and was in part inspired by the works of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen Master. One of Hanh teachings is that “The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.” As the mindfulness movement is growing and being implemented in our homes and schools, Jon Muth’s The Three Questions is a compelling but delicate book parents and educators can use as a tool to help teach children about how to be mindful.