Author(s): Jon J. Muth
With his stunning watercolors -- and text that resounds with universal truths, award-winning artist Jon J Muth has transformed a story by Tolstoy into a timeless fable for young readers. What is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? Nikolai knows that he wants to be the best person he can be, but often he is unsure if he is doing the right thing. So he goes to ask Leo, the wise turtle. When he arrives, the turtle is struggling to dig in his garden, and Nikolai rushes to help him. As he finishes work, a violent storm rolls in. Nikolai runs for Leo's cottage, but on his way, he hears cries for help from an injured panda. Nikolai brings her in from the cold, and then rushes back outside to rescue her baby too.
The Three QuestionsMuth (Come On, Rain!) recasts a short story by Tolstoy into picture-book format substituting a boy and his animal friends for the czar and his human companions. Yearning to be a good person, Nikolai asks, "When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?" Sonya the heron, Cogol the monkey and Pushkin the dog offer their opinions, but their answers do not satisfy Nikolai. He visits Leo, an old turtle who lives in the mountains. While there, he helps Leo with his garden and rescues an injured panda and her cub, and in so doing, finds the answers he seeks. As Leo explains, 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." Moral without being moralistic, the tale sends a simple and direct message unfreighted by pomp or pedantry. Muth's art is as carefully distilled as his prose. A series of misty, evocative watercolors in muted tones suggests the figures and their changing relationships to the landscape. judicious flashes of color quicken the compositions, as in the red of Nikolai's kite (the kite, released at the end, takes on symbolic value). An afterword describes Tolstoy and his work.--Publishers Weekly, Feb.11, 2002, starred review Nikolai wants to be a good person but believes that he needs guidance. He has three important philosophical questions: "When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?" The answers will set him on the right path in life. He first asks his friends the heron, the monkey, and the dog, but their answers are colored by their own survival needs, and are helpful but not definitive. He goes to Leo the turtle, who is old and very wise. Nikolai's experiences while visiting Leo help him to find his own answers. Leo only needs to put them in words. Muth has created a magical
Jon Muth takes Leo Tolstoy’s short story, The Three Questions, as the starting point for an account of a young boy’s search for an understanding of the moral dimension of his life. Nikolai asks his friends to help him to find the answers what he considers the three most important questions:
• When is the best time to do things?
• Who is the most important one?
• What is the right thing to do?
Nikolai’s search for the answers leads him to seek the help of someone he believes is wiser than himself, who helps him to conclude that the meaning of life rests in the relationships we form and the way we treat others. The story raises interesting philosophical questions about