Confucius: The Golden Rule

Written by Russell Freedman

Illustrated by Frédéric Clément

I was a little awed by working with Newbery Award-winner Russell Freedman on this book. Though he’s a warm, friendly fellow, he’s also very smart and is one of our country’s national treasures. So our first few editorial interactions were a little intimidating for me. But soon I found myself relaxing into the pleasure of working with a writer who has such a strong command of his craft. And we were both so fascinated by the subject of his book that it truly became a labor of love. “Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.”

This was one of the guiding principles of life that Confucius taught his followers, five centuries before Jesus taught the Golden Rule with similar words.

His principles of fair government influenced the very writers and thinkers who, thousands of years later would develop the democratic ideals of our own government. And yet, today, in the western world, the great Chinese philosopher is still commonly portrayed as a comic sage, a loony philosopher whose remarks always begin “Confucius say.”

Renowned biographer Russell Freedman’s fascinating, witty introduction to the life and teachings of Confucius should finally set the record straight. Using the rigorous, lively technique that his readers have come to expect, Freedman traveled to China’s Shandong Province to visit Confucius’s birthplace, interviewed his descendents, and plumbed the famous Analects - the teachings of the sage, written down by his followers.

The result is an enlightening, inspiring, and touching look at one of the world’s most influential leaders. Accompanied by the atmospheric paintings of Frédéric Clément.

Reviews and Awards

Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2002
School Library Journal Best Book of 2002
New York Public Library 100 Best Books for Reading & Sharing
New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
Washington Post Top 10 Kids’ Books of 2002
Parent’s Choice Recommended Award
Orbis Pictus Honor Book 2003 for outstanding nonfiction for children
NCTE Notable Children’s Book in the Language Arts
IRA Notable Book for a Global Society
NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People

⋆ “Confucius will fascinate readers who give him a try, and they may end up wiser for the effort. A must for all collections.” - Kirkus Reviews, starred review

⋆ “Newberry Medal winner Freedman delves deep into Chinese history in his intelligent, comprehensive biography of the 5th-century B.C. philosopher Confucius…. Clément’s moody, ethereal illustrations complement the thoughtful text, yet play up the mystery of Confucius’s life.” - Publishers Weekly, starred review

⋆ “Politics, education, spirituality: the philosopher has something to say in all these areas, and Freedman compellingly conveys the profundity of his thoughts… The world today could hardly do better than to ponder the wisdom of this sage.” - School Library Journal, starred review

⋆ “Freedman’s Confucius jumps off the page as a fiery revolutionary… The fascinating narrative seamlessly intersperses stories from the Analects with Chinese history and biographical information about Confucius, focusing on his philosophical brilliance… Clément’s muted, elegant paintings of towns, temples and the bucktoothed Confucius himself have a suitably ancient feel with jagged borders and fading colors.” - Booklist, starred review

“It is no small achievement to construct a cogent biography of a man about whom little verifiable fact is known, while concurrently interpreting Eastern philosophy for a Western middle-school audience…. Freedman’s success is due largely to his tight focus on the ironies of Confucius’s life - the reformer who never wrote down his philosophy, the secular thinker whose ideas later accrued the trappings of religion.” - Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books 

“Adults looking for a book that makes sense of our confused and troubling time might do well to introduce their children to the life of Confucius.” - New York Times ALA Notable Book

Purchase Options
Indiebound • Amazon • Barnes & Noble

Fall 2002
Non-fiction Picture Book
ISBN: 0-439-13957-0
Price: $15.96/$24.99
Trim Size: 8" x 10"
Page Count: 48
Foreign Rights: Scholastic
Translation Rights: La Joie de Lire
Rights Available? yes

Also see: