The Seven Chinese Brothers

7CB cover

Written by: Margaret Mahy

Illustrated by: Jean & Mou-sien Tseng

Published in 1990

Genre: Traditional Literature, Picture Book

Grade Level: 1-4

Summary: The Seven Chinese Brothers is based on a Chinese folktale and contains references to the Han Dynasty. Each of the seven brothers in this story has a special power, and they all look alike. One day, the brothers notice some men repairing the Great Wall of China, so one of the brothers goes to help them out. He finishes the job in one day, which causes the emperor to become afraid. The emperor calls for the brother’s execution to make sure that he can’t turn his awesome power against him. The other brothers find out and switch places several times, as the specific punishments (such as burning or drowning) won’t work against them. Eventually the emperor and his armies are defeated and the brothers are free to live their lives again.

Angela’s Thoughts

7CB read

I really enjoyed reading this book. Both the story and the illustrations come together to make a cohesive and entertaining read.

The illustrations in this book are perfect. The pictures (watercolor paintings) are absolutely beautiful and really match the story. The watercolors give a traditional feel to the book and really make an impact on how the story is read.

The story itself is also really interesting. The various powers of the brothers, combined with how they managed to avoid execution, really helped move the story along nicely. I also liked the references to China and the time period, particularly those about the “Celestial Emperor.”

The only thing I didn’t really like about this story was the way the brothers were referred to (First Brother, Second Brother, etc) throughout the book. I found myself getting confused, particularly when the reader was expected to know which power belonged to which brother. There were times when I felt like I had to go back to the beginning and review the powers. For example, when Fifth Brother pointed out that the emperor wouldn’t be able to drown him I thought that he might be able to breathe underwater or hold his breath for long periods of time. In reality, his legs were able to grow really long so that he could stand in even the deepest parts of the sea.

Final Thoughts: All in all, The Seven Chinese Brothers was a really enjoyable book. Even though I got confused during some parts, I thought it was an excellent book and I would love to include it in my classroom library.

I give The Seven Chinese Brothers five stars!


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I’ve got a new guest reviewer! Keep reading to see what Amy thought about The Seven Chinese Brothers.

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Amy’s Thoughts

Amy 7CB read

In The Seven Chinese Brothers by Margaret Mahy there are, obviously, seven brothers. They live on a gorgeous hillside, with ordinary, happy lives. But now, when a hole appears in the Chinese Wall, the third brother goes to help the builders. The brothers are no ordinary men. They each have their own individual talent.

The first brother could hear from very far. The second brother could see from very far. The third brother could lift up mountains if he wished. The fourth brother was also strong, but he had bones made of iron so they couldn’t break. The fifth brother had legs that grew to extraordinary lengths. The sixth brother could never become too hot. Finally, the seventh brother could cry rivers, literally.

When the third brother got in trouble for, believe this or not, being too strong, the seven brothers worked together to save each other from the wrath of the Emperor.

There was a lesson to be learned through this. If you work together everything can work out. Or at least it should.

7CB drawing

I didn’t like the Emperor’s burning desire to kill “one man.” The brothers’ looks were all the same. Therefore, the Emperor thought all of the seven brothers were one man. I think if he didn’t like their power he should have sucked it up or at least kept him in jail.

I think some of the wording could confuse someone else, but I found no trouble with it… okay, maybe a little.

The pictures also easily described the scene in each brother’s use of their talent.

I think people of all ages could enjoy this book, especially young children. This seems the perfect material for a good night story… But you’ll have to read it for yourself to see what you think.

This book was great! It had good illustrations and good writing along with it. I definitely think this book deserves five stars!

5 blue star


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