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by Margaret Mahy

illustrated by Grace Lin



This ALA Notable Book tells the magical story of seven Chinese brothers who use their supernatural talents to overcome a powerful emperor, who exploits the hard work of the peasants at the Great Wall of China. The rich illustrations show the majesty of early Chinese culture.

The seven brothers are precursors to the modern comic book super heroes that are so popular. Each has an unusual skill. The first has remarkable hearing. The second can see over vast distances. The third has unusual strength. The fourth has bones of iron. The fifth has legs that can grow as long and thick as tree trunks. The sixth brother can never be too hot. The seventh brother can cry such large tears that they can drown an entire village. Much effort goes into keeping him happy. The key to the story is that they look alike.

Young readers may be a bit upset when the emperor tries to have the brothers killed, but this historical detail is important in retelling the development of human societies. Overall, this is an engaging read that shows how a family’s talent and cooperation beat insurmountable odds. Through great imagination in employing their remarkable talents, teamwork, and an indomitable spirit, the brothers survive the wrath of the emperor.


1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, Ages 4-8, Folktale, Kindergarten, Preschool