Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The Three Questions

Muth, Jon J. (Author/Illustrator)
Tolstoy, Leo (Author)
Scholastic 2002. 32 pages
First published: 2002
ISBN: 9780439199964 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Book type: Picture Book

Text Elements:

character, evocative language, figurative language, point of view

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This thoughtful and philosophical picture book is based on a short story by the famous Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. A little boy is trying to figure out how to be a good person. He has three questions for which he seeks answers: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? and What is the right thing to do? He asks three animal friends, but gets very different answers. Still unsure, he seeks the advice of a turtle, figuring his longevity has given him great wisdom. Instead of answering the boy outwardly, the turtle guides him into understanding by ensuring he learns through his actions.

The use of speaking animals makes the story feel like a fable. The language is descriptive and evocative, and dialogue is used extensively. The story’s length and complex ideas will require concentration from readers. The illustrations are soft, muted watercolours that emphasize the importance of the young boy’s interactions with those around him.

Many reflective activities and discussions can be done based on the three questions. The book ends with an author’s note about the original story and why the author chose to adapt it the way he did.

  •  

    Discuss the characteristics of a fable. What other fables do you know? What did you learn from this story?

  •  

    Stop reading right before learning the turtle’s answers to the three questions, and predict what they might be. Write your predictions in your journal.

  •  

    After reading the turtle’s answer, decide whether you agree or disagree; be prepared to justify your answer.

  •  

    Script and perform a puppet show of the story for a younger audience. 

  •  

    Stop reading right before learning the turtle’s answers to the three questions, and predict what they might be. Write your predictions in your journal.

  •  

    After reading the turtle’s answer, decide whether and why you agree or disagree. 

  •  

    Discuss fables: What is the author’s intent? What other fables do you know? What lessons to they illustrate?

  •  

    Perform the story in Readers’ Theatre format.

  •  What fables do you know? Discuss their common characteristics.
  •  After doing background research on the author, write a journal entry about what inspired him to write this story.
  •  If you were to re-imagine this story, as the author did, what would your characters look like? Which animals would you choose? What setting? Explain your answers.
  •  The author’s art was inspired by his Zen studies. Research Zen principles and how they are woven into the illustrations.
  • To adopt effective work methods
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Drama
  • Geography, History and Citizenship