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The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth

The inspiration for "The Three Questions" picture book came to the author, Jon Muth, through a book he read by Thich Nhat Hanh, a global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist. In Thich Nhat Hanh's book he praised a Leo Tolstoy short story of the same name.

Thich Nhat Hanh said:

"Tolstoy's story is like a story out of scripture: it doesn't fall short of any sacred text," "Tolstoy is a saint-- what we Buddhists would call a Bodhisattva."

Upon reading the praise, Jon Muth read Tolstoy's short story,"The Three Questions". The story moved him and he recasted it with a boy looking for answers with the help of his animal friends instead of a Tsar and villagers.

Sonya, the heron, is named after Tolstoy's wife; Gogol, the monkey, and Pushkin, the dog, are named after famous Russion writers and Nikolai; the boy, Nikolai, is both the name of Tolstoy's brother and of Jon Muth's son.

The book's imagery of muted watercolors with bursts of occasional brighter yellows and the striking red kite enrich the equally understated parable of morality. More then ever this tale speaks to all of us as we consider how we can we live in the present moment, with the people around us, ease their suffering and make our world a better place. The story goes like this . . .

Nicolai wanted to be a good person. But, he didn't know how to do it.

He needed answers to three questions. He asked his friends; Sonya, Puskin and Gogol.

What is the best time to do things?

Who is the most important one?

What is the right thing to do?

His friends gave their answers.

Click the pictures below to follow Nikolai's journey.

This is why we are here.

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