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The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet…
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The Five Chinese Brothers (1938)

by Claire Huchet Bishop

Other authors: Kurt Wiese (Illustrator)

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8173111,139 (3.99)15
  1. 00
    The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship by Arthur Ransome (raizel)
    raizel: both stories have people with unusual powers
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English (30)  French (1)  All languages (31)
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
In China lived five brothers, each in appearance exactly like the others. Each, too, had a special ability: the first could swallow the sea; the second had an iron neck; the third could stretch his legs very far; the fourth couldn't be burned; and the fifth could hold his breath indefinitely. When a young boy is drowned while collecting shells from the sea bed after the first brother had drunk up the sea, the first brother is sentenced to be killed. However, his brothers' special talents may be just what is needed to save him.

The Five Chinese Brothers is a picture book, written by Claire Huchet Bishop and illustrated by Kurt Wiese. I enjoyed it greatly as a child, though, looking back on it as an adult, there are some problems with it.

The problem is with the illustrations. They are lovely and entertaining, but they are also sadly stereotypical of Chinese people. I'd hesitate to call them racist, but they certainly reflect the time the were published, back in 1938. The Chinese people in general, and not merely the identical brothers, are all drawn as being essentially identical, with yellow skin, closed eyes, and hands together in their sleeves. Usual, I suppose, for the time, though such illustrations would be fairly offensive today--the book would probably not be published.

I understand that there's a more recent retelling of the story by Margaret Mahy, with illustrations by Mou-Sien Tseng, called The Seven Chinese Brothers, which may lack these problems and so be preferable, but I've not read it, so I can't comment.

Even with its problems, The Five Chinese Brothers is a great book. If it should, perhaps, be read by parents together with their children, in order to ensure an appropriate understanding that the book doesn't accurately represent Chinese people, well, that's not so bad--children's books are usually best read by parents and children together, anyway. ( )
  Sopoforic | Feb 6, 2014 |
These brothers talk about their experience being brothers.
  raul-lakes | Dec 16, 2013 |
This is a story about five brothers who have mystical abilities that help each other get out of a sticky situation. I liked this book because the storyline was very creative and I would want to teach it to try and kick start my students imagination. This book would be suitable for the grades 2 and 3. ( )
  dylrmstd | Dec 10, 2013 |
The classic picture-story about five clever brothers, each with a different extraordinary ability, has been in print for over 50 years. "An original nonsense tale told with...spirit and gusto." -- The Horn Book
  lexibaldwin | Dec 5, 2013 |
A tale for all ages. A lesson about finding and celebrating what makes each of us different and special. ( )
  makasireh | Nov 26, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bishop, Claire Huchetprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wiese, KurtIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
To my father who made me love China and To my mother a born story-teller
First words
Once apon a time there were Five Chinese Brothers and they all looked exactly alike.
Quotations
We have tried to get rid of you in every way possible and somehow it cannot be done. It must be that you are innocent.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
This is the tale of five extraordinary Chinese brothers who use their gifts to save one brother's life. As the first brother is accused of murder and sentenced to death, each of his brothers take his place so that the executions cannot be carried out.
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Five brothers who look just alike outwit the executioner by using their extraordinary individual qualities.

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