Written and illustrated by Jon J Muth,,
“The Three Questions” is a book about a boy, Nikoli who has three questions and cannot rest until he finds their answers. His questions are: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? He asks his friends the dog, heron, and monkey who tell him different things, all of which are selfish answers. Still unsatisfied, Nikoli goes for a long walk and stumbles across his friend the old turtle digging his garden, so he began to help him. He asked the turtle the three questions and then a storm comes. Nikoli heard a cry for help and ran into the woods. There he finds a mother panda bear trapped under a tree. Nikoli rescues her and her baby. After the mother and baby bears are safe, Nikoli is still looking for answers. Finally, the turtle makes Nikoli realize that “there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one who you are with, and the most important thing to do is good for the one who is by your side.”
Reflection: The best part of this book is the illustrations, they are watercolor and enchanting. The storyline is meaningful and exciting for students to hear. Nikoli’s questions are questions that many people ask themselves at some point in their lives and to hear the answers that he finds is inspiring.
This book can facilitate discussions on how to be good citizens. It shows the importance of doing good for others.
Nikoli has many character traits that are evident in the story which makes this book wonderful for a characterization lesson. Students can not only list Nikoli’s character traits, but they can find evidence of it in the story.
It would be a good idea to have the students write a paragraph to ask their own three questions and try to answer them.
Questioning what’s going on in the world is one of the most important lessons we can learn, and this book can facilitate discussions about why its important to ask questions like Nikoli did.
This story is based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, so it would be a good idea to do a study of Leo Tolstoy with a group of fifth and sixth graders. Because Tolstoy wrote “The Three Tales” you could read it, and compare it to the “Three Questions” and then have the students write their own “Three Tales” story.
Levels of Social Justice:
This story addresses the fifth level of social justice education. Students are able to see Nikoli doing good for others, even though he didn’t know them. Through this book discussions can be raised about how to do good for the people in their town, school or anywhere. Nikoli sets an example of being a good citizen, which is one of the first steps to taking action for social change. After all, the last line of the story is “For these my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world. This is why we are here.” This book is motivating and inspiring.