Su Dongpo: Chinese Genius


As a little seed one day will become a great tree, as a flowing river can carve a mighty rock...
One day the work you do will show too!

Even as a young boy in eleventh-century China, Su Shih was clearly special. After finding a rare inkstone, he began to write stories and verses expressing his love of the natural world. His words flowed effortlessly. His brush danced across the paper.

Su Shih grew up to become...

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As a little seed one day will become a great tree, as a flowing river can carve a mighty rock...
One day the work you do will show too!

Even as a young boy in eleventh-century China, Su Shih was clearly special. After finding a rare inkstone, he began to write stories and verses expressing his love of the natural world. His words flowed effortlessly. His brush danced across the paper.

Su Shih grew up to become a leading scholar and statesman, eventually taking the name Su Dongpo. Integrating his love of natural order and humanity into his writings and civic works, Su Dongpo promoted justice and condemned corruption — often at his own peril. His life was rife with reversals of fortune; but through it all he retained his grace, his humility, and his compassion.

Award-winning author and artist Demi has created a graceful tribute to one of history's most accomplished yet overlooked figures. Su Dongpo's life truly transcends the ages and is a shining example of dignity, ingenuity, courage and resilience.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The subject of Demi's latest picture-book biography, Su Dongpo: Chinese Genius, was alive during the Song dynasty, at about the same time as William the Conqueror. Remembered now as a poet, Su Dongpo was better known in his own time as a statesman, and it is on this side of his career that the book focuses. The author implies that Su Dongpo's setbacks refined him spiritually, and rendered his worldly fame meaningless. In Demi's glorious Chinese landscapes, the mountains and oceans dwarf the human figures. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Carolyn Mott Ford
Magnificent illustrations, so like silkscreen paintings that the reader wants to run fingers over them, grace this story of Su Dongpo. In a small village in China, Su Shih was born and he and his brother were taught by their mother many things, especially that all living things were to be treated with love and care. Su Shih lived his life in harmony with nature. At the age of six, while working in his mother's garden, Su Shih found a special ink stone and with it he began to write stories. At school he learned calligraphy and developed his painting ability. In addition, he and his brother had wonderful voices; they would recite poems and the classics. When taking his final exams, Su Shih was declared the best of all the candidates. Upon the death of his beloved mother, Su Shih wrote a beautiful poem. Later he worked as a judge and was considered a man of the people, but eventually politics forced him from his position. When he then became a farmer, he was called Su Dongpo. He was returned to power, but then once again exiled and finally pardoned. Throughout these tumultuous years he continued to write. This story of his life is written in a poetic and mystical style.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Starting with the endpapers, Demi's style is instantly recognizable, with richly detailed illustrations and a profound subject that recalls her biographies of other spiritual figures. For many, this will be an introduction to Su Dongpo, also known as Su Shih, renowned as China's greatest genius. The 11th-century scholar and statesman's accomplishments read like a laundry list of humanism. His poetry is incorporated into the story, leaving readers with thoughtful images and metaphors to consider. In a poem he composed as a boy, Su Dongpo writes, "To what can human life be likened?/Perhaps to a wild goose's footprint on snow-." Using a now-characteristic technique, Demi adds gold-leaf borders and details to boxed illustrations, but her images frequently extend over and beyond them. Red, like the gold, works as a spot color that adds a striking focus to the more subdued scenes. The text is spare, depicting the man's life through specific events. There are no such conventions as a time line, but the story leaves readers with the sense of an extraordinary man and enough detail to write a brief report about him.-Janet S. Thompson, Chicago Public Library Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In reverent tribute to a "statesman, philosopher, poet, painter, engineer, architect, and humanitarian" born nearly ten centuries ago, Demi offers a text in which quoted passages of poetry and references to "mystical painting skills" mingle with biographical detail. She pairs this with her trademark scenes of dignified, finely detailed figures floating through luminescent clouds in traditional dress. Though she sounds a false note near the end with a dismissive description of Hainan Island as "a place inhabited only by natives," this portrait of a "knight-errant," who shone brightly in both the literary and political arenas while surviving several severe reversals of fortune, presents an exemplary role model. In the author's view, he still stands at the "heart and soul of Chinese culture." (Biography. 8-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781584302568
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2006
  • Pages: 56
  • Sales rank: 1,481,473
  • Age range: 9 years
  • Lexile: 1060L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.10 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

DEMI is an author and illustrator of more than one hundred books for children, mostly biographies and folklore. She is known for her perceptive texts and elegant illustrations with golden accents, and her books have received numerous awards and accolades, among them ALA Notable Children's Books, The New York Times Best Illustrated Books, Notable Books for a Global Society, American Bookseller Pick of the Lists, the Middle East Book Award, and the Christopher Award, which recognizes individuals whose work makes a positive difference in the world. Demi has traveled extensively and studied art in Mexico, India, and China. She liveswith her husband in Carnation, Washington.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 18, 2010

    Challenging Children's Book

    Su Dongpo is one of the greatest genuises the Chinese culture has ever seen, and is a very important figure to the Chinese. He is a philosopher, poet, painter, engineer, architect, and humanitarian. "Su Dongpo" is a biography of his life. He began his studies at a young age with schooling from his mother, and eventually entered into secondary school. In his adult life he held several different positions including judge and secretary in the Department of History.
    The purpose of this book is to educate people of the life of Su Shih.
    The illustrations in the book allow the reader a vivid and detailed glimpse into Su Shih's life in China. The frames are all gold which gives the reader a sense of wealth and extravagance. The pages all look very professional. However, the frames on most of the pages allow for only a limited glimpse. Readers sense they do not see the entire picture. The illustrations have small brush strokes and fine detail to them. The details in each illustration allow for a real interpretation of this real life story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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