Last night, in an unusual moment, both children sat with me on the couch for a book. Without interruption. They were rapt. That a single book could speak to them both, and so powerfully, is very rare. That it could also speak powerfully to me is almost unheard of.
The book was The Three Questions, written and illustrated by Jon Muth. I've loved other books of Jon Muth's, notably Zen Shorts, and this book has been on our bookshelf for a while, but somehow we haven't read it in a long time (possibly ever). The book asks three essential questions: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?
With beautiful watercolor illustrations and Muth's trademark magical mixing of the human and animal worlds, The Three Questions addresses nothing less than how to be a good person in this world. As young Nikolai tries to figure out his three questions, he consults his friends: a heron, a monkey,and a dog. Finally, unable to find a satisfactory answer, he seeks the wisest person he knows: a turtle.
Nikolai's visit to the turtle turns out to be more involved than he thought, and eventually includes a storm and a lost baby panda. The turtle weaves Nikolai's three questions together with their experience into a compelling, beautiful moral. The answers to Nikolai's three questions are Zen-inspired and simple, yet essential and inspirational at the same time. The Three Questions is a lovely tale of a young boy asking big questions, and of the guides his open mind allows him to find. The message is meaningful for all ages, and the book itself is stunningly beautiful.