cover image CONFUCIUS: The Golden Rule

CONFUCIUS: The Golden Rule

Russell Freedman, , illus. by Frédéric Clément. . Scholastic/Levine, $15.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-439-13957-1

Newbery Medal winner Freedman (Lincoln: A Photobiography) delves deep into Chinese history in his intelligent, comprehensive biography of the 5th-century B.C. philosopher Confucius, whose teachings have influenced the development of modern government and education in both China and the West. Freedman draws on stories, legends and collected dialogues from The Analects of Confucius, written by his students, to reveal a man of deep perceptions as well as great humor. The author reports that, when a disciple told the scholar that he did not know how to describe his teacher to a local governor, Confucius said, "Why didn't you tell him that I'm a man driven by such passion for learning that in my enthusiasm I often forget to eat, in my joy I forget to worry, and I don't even notice the approach of old age." Skillfully and smoothly weaving Chinese history, culture and language into the narrative, Freedman also explains Confucian philosophy succinctly, without dumbing it down ("The first task of a true statesman, Confucius said, is to face the truth, to use words honestly"). Clément's moody, ethereal illustrations complement the thoughtful text yet play up the mystery of Confucius's life. Like worn pages ripped from an ancient tome, the rubbed, faded images—strewn with photorealistic fruits, petals and berries—plunge readers into otherworldly scenes. For today's students, this portrait is a comprehensible introduction to Eastern thought. Just as Confucius "prodded [his students] to think in new ways," it will open new doors for young readers. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)