1st & 2nd Grade Books > The Three Questions

The Three Questions

Text and Ilustration: Jon J. Murth

Young Nikolai is searching for the answers to his three questions:
When is the best time to do things?
Who is the most important one?
What is the right thing to do?
But it is his own response to a stranger’s cry for help that leads him directly to the answers he is looking for.
This profound and inspiring book, based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, raises the subject of compassion and being engaged in each moment.


Family Activities

This story is adapted from a story by the famous Russian writer Tolstoy. What is it trying to tell us?


Dear Parents,

Questions are the key to learning, whether learning about ourselves, about others, or about the world around us. Our children are usually curious about things they observe and phenomena which preoccupy them both mentally and emotionally. Here, we realize that without asking questions or enquiring, our child cannot attain true knowledge.

The boy in our story asks philosophical and ethical questions, hoping that the answers will help him be a “good” person. This story opens up exciting possibilities for dialogue with our child about their understanding of good and bad in people and in actions, about loving and helping others, and about what makes them good people with moral values. The story also stimulates thinking about the kind of information we seek: Why is it important to us? What are its sources? How can we get it?

Family Activities

  • We can talk together about the boy’s behavior in the story. Why did he help the panda and her baby? Do we sometimes help others, even if they are strangers? Why?
  • How would our family answer Nikolai’s three questions? It is fun for our child to conduct a small family survey which will later stimulate a dialogue.
  • With our child, we can create a small “Question Box,” and ask each family member to write three interesting questions on a piece of paper and put them in the box. We then take out one paper and suggest our answers to the question, and we can also add sources that others can use.
  • We can chat with our child about the behaviors that make him/her a good person, and we recall actions that he or she has done that support that.
  • The story ends with the sentence “that is why we are here.” We can talk about the meaning of the sentence: What does “here” mean? And why are we here?
  • The book uses watercolor drawings, which reflect the influence of the far East and Japan on the painter himself. These techniques include drawing nature on most of the painting while keeping a small portion to people and objects. Our child can try to paint the sea landscape on page 13 using watercolor and add other elements to the scene.
  • Enjoy your reading!

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