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by Russell Freedman

illustrated by Frederic Clement


School Library Journal:

Gr 4-8– In writing this biography, Freedman faced two obstacles: a distorted popular idea of Confucius, and a paucity of data about the real man. He directly addresses the first, and his engaging book beautifully compensates for the second. He sets his subject in the context of strife-torn China, since Confucius was a radical reformer whose ideas had political applications. Politics, education, spirituality: the philosopher has something to say in all these areas, and Freedman compellingly conveys the profundity of his thoughts. Frequent brief quotations from The Analects lend immediacy to the story and help obscure the biographical lacunae. In a final chapter, Freedman points to the impact of Confucius’s ideas, seeing in them sources for Western democratic concepts, as well as Eastern respect for family and education. Parenthetical pronunciation guides make the pinyin names accessible, and a note on sources and suggestions for further reading aid those whose curiosity is sure to be whetted by this fine book. Clément’s illustrations are superb. His “portrait” of Confucius is unidealized, based on written descriptions of him. Each full-page piece of art does homage to Chinese-style painting, simulating old pictures, some damaged, others bearing the seals of many owners. Crumbling frames add color and geometric design to these pale figural and landscape depictions, onto which photographed petals, fruits, buds, or leaves have been superimposed, creating timeless notes of natural color and local flavor. The world today could hardly do better than to ponder the wisdom of this sage.–Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George’s School, Newport, RI –Patricia D. Lothrop (Reviewed September 1, 2002) (School Library Journal, vol 48, issue 9, p244)


  • ALA Notable Children’s Books: 2003
  • School Library Journal Best Books: 2002


4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, Ages 9-12, Biography, Education