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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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8513510,545 (3.89)15
Recently added byprivate library, A.Bond, Jen-the-Librarian, greenscoop, armc, lisan., skmcguinness, LynleeRae
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    The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship by Arthur Ransome (raizel)
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English (34)  French (1)  All languages (35)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Summary: There are 5 Chinese brothers who all looked identical and each have a special power, 1) the power to swallow the sea, 2) had an iron neck, 3) could stretch and stretch his legs, 4) could not be burned, 5) could hold his breath indefinitely. The first brother was a great fisherman and a little boy asked to go fishing with him, after contemplating he agreed. He made the boy promise he would obey him promptly. He then swallowed the sea and the little boy went out to grab the uncovered treasure and fish needed. The brother began to need to let the sea back out and he waved for the little boy to come back and he refused and continued to pick things up and run further onto the sea floor. The first Chinese brother had to let the sea back and the little boy disappeared. When the brother returned to town unaccompanied, he was arrested and sentenced to death by having his head cut off. The second brother with the iron neck was sent in his place and could not be killed that way so he was then sentenced to death by drowning. The third brother who could stretch his legs forever was sent in his place and was thrown out to sea and just stretched to the bottom. He was then sentenced to death by burning so the fourth brother was sent who could not be burned. Then he was sentenced to death my smothering so the fifth brother who could hold his breath indefinitely was sent and of course could not be killed that way. The people and judge finally decided the man was innocent and all five brother lived happily ever after.

Personal Reaction: This book was very clever in the ways it used the Chinese culture. It is not true that all Chinese look identical however to most people Chinese do resemble each other especially if they are blood related.

Classroom Extension Ideas: 1. Have my students come up with a 6th brother to add to the story and what his power would be.
2. Have them use the 6th brother to rewrite the ending.
  LynleeRae | Oct 23, 2014 |
I felt like this book was funny at some parts and had playful events that occurred throughout. These are two of the things that I liked about the book. When the king in the book failed so many times to kill who he thought had caused the little boy's death, it was a way to show comedic slapstick humor through a children's book. However, the things I did not like about this book were some of its themes and how this book played on the identical chinese brothers. It almost seems that the author is trying to make a joke about how chinese people look the same, which can be taken very offensively. Also, the theme of death is a little to prevalent for my taste. The author seemed to talk too much about killing. The little boy died in the sea and the king tried to kill who he thought killed the boy 4 seperate times. This just seems a little morbid for me. The big picture of this book was to tell a funny tale of "sticking together." ( )
  ajfurman | Oct 21, 2014 |
The book is about 1 murder and 4 attempted executions. My child asked me the same question I had in response to the book, "why?" ( )
  MiguelPut | Aug 4, 2014 |
Five Chinese brothers all look alike and all have super powers. The trick the people of the town who are trying to execute one of them for drowning a little boy by mistake.
  LizinHillsdale | Aug 1, 2014 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (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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