“His ideas were so powerful and so full of wisdom that his words are alive after twenty-five centuries, and often, he seems to be speaking directly to us.” Yet, in his own time, Confucius failed to realize his ambitions, and he never had much effect on leaders in a China of corrupt feudal lords and warring independent states. Confucius believed he was living amid the collapse of China’s civilization. One surprise of this work is how familiar the political ideas of Confucius and his successors seem: the purpose of government is to promote the welfare of the people; character and ability, not heredity, determine the right to govern; rulers must have the consent of the governed; the people have the right to dispose of oppressive rulers. And, sure enough, readers find that these ideas influenced 18th-century philosophers, including Thomas Jefferson, who incorporated them in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. This is Freedman’s (In the Days of the Vaqueros, 2001, etc.) first Asian subject and his work set furthest back in history, and it is a tribute to his writing that he can make the ideas of an ancient philosopher seem so modern and fascinating to young readers. His writing is fluent, clear, lively, and specific. Readers learn that Confucius was “very ugly, a huge bawling infant with a twisted nose and a strange bulge on his skull.” They learn that vendors in Qufu, the capital city, sold bears’ paws, shark fins, the livers of peacocks, bees fried in their own honey, and other delicacies, and that political dissidents, such as Confucius and his followers, ran the risk of being arrested and boiled alive. Clément’s ancient-looking paintings are a beautiful match for the text in this handsome volume. Not a topic that will naturally draw readers, Confucius will fascinate readers who give him a try, and they may end up wiser for the effort. A must for all collections. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-439-13957-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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A measured corrective to pervasive myths about what is often referred to as the “first Thanksgiving.”

Contextualizing them within a Native perspective, Newell (Passamaquoddy) touches on the all-too-familiar elements of the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving and its origins and the history of English colonization in the territory now known as New England. In addition to the voyage and landfall of the Mayflower, readers learn about the Doctrine of Discovery that arrogated the lands of non-Christian peoples to European settlers; earlier encounters between the Indigenous peoples of the region and Europeans; and the Great Dying of 1616-1619, which emptied the village of Patuxet by 1620. Short, two- to six-page chapters alternate between the story of the English settlers and exploring the complex political makeup of the region and the culture, agriculture, and technology of the Wampanoag—all before covering the evolution of the holiday. Refreshingly, the lens Newell offers is a Native one, describing how the Wampanoag and other Native peoples received the English rather than the other way around. Key words ranging from estuary to discover are printed in boldface in the narrative and defined in a closing glossary. Nelson (a member of the Leech Lake Band of Minnesota Chippewa) contributes soft line-and-color illustrations of the proceedings. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Essential. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-72637-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Scholastic Nonfiction

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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