The Seven Chinese Brothers Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Civil Society
Philanthropic Act
by Margaret Mahy and Jean Tseng - 
 A literature guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to build children's understanding of generosity, celebrating differences, and service to others. 

The Seven Chinese Brothers have done nothing wrong. In fact, they are compassionate and helpful to people they don’t even know. When the cruel emperor tries to kill one of the brothers because he is too powerful, the other brothers employ their extraordinary powers in turn to free the captured brother. Among the extraordinary gifts is the gift of compassion. Although this is a tall tale, the characters display great dedication to each other and their community. 

Before Reading

ASK: In your family, each person is good at something. What are you good at and what are the other people in your family good at?

SHOW: Look at the picture on the cover. What do you notice? How might you describe the characters you see?

CONNECT: This is a tall tale that takes place in China long, long ago. What is a "tall tale"? What are other "tall tales" that you know?

During Reading

ASK: What is each brother’s extraordinary power? Why is each power a good thing to have? How can we use something we are good at to do good for others?

SHOW: Notice the beautiful clothes, uniforms, and decorations in the Chinese army and on the emperor. How do the clothes of the emperor and the army compare to those of the brothers? Why do you think they are different?

CONNECT: Why do you think the Emperor is afraid of the seven Chinese brothers? How do they act when the Emperor tries to kill them? Have you ever felt that someone was treating you badly for an unjust reason? What can you learn from the way the brothers respond in this situation?

After Reading

ASK: What does it mean to be loyal? In what ways were the brothers loyal to the men building the wall? In what ways were they loyal to each other?

SHOW: Look at the last picture in the book. How would you describe this family scene? What does it make you think of?

CONNECT: Our job is to discover our own gifts and then use them for good in the world. What "super power" would you like have and how would you use it to do good in the world?



  1. How do you defend/support your family members? What would you do if you heard someone tease your sister? What would you do if your cousin lost something important to him? How do you show your parents that you care about them? Think of different ways you support your family members? Make a plan for showing your dedication to someone in your family.
  2. Draw a picture of your family helping (or sharing something with) each other. Talk about ways that family members support each other.
  3. Work cooperatively with your family members to complete a project. Explore Learning to Give's Simple Safe Service guides. Choose one as a family to complete.
  4. Write a tall tale of your own that tells a tale of generosity and loyalty. Use basic story elements (below) but exaggerate the descriptions and the abilities of the characters to create your tall tale.
    • Main character/abilities
    • Other characters/abilities:
    • Setting (where/when it takes place):
    • Problem:
    • One attempt to solve the problem:
    • Solution:
    • Ending: