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The Five Chinese Brothers

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  20,442 Ratings  ·  332 Reviews
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
Paperback, 64 pages
Published 1996 by Puffin Books (first published 1938)
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Aug 24, 2007 Sonky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a disgusting example of Orientalism in action in the educational system of the United States during the 20th Century. The cover alone should warn you of the prejudicial and stereotyped contents.

I love this book dearly.
Morgan Hale
Mar 13, 2012 Morgan Hale rated it it was amazing
This book was given to my uncle, when he was a kid, and then passed on to me. I absolutely loved it. I remember reading it time and time again and was actually surprised when I saw so many complaints about it.

The first complaint is about racism, specifically the charge that the book is suggesting all Chinese people look the same. Now, I've read it as a child and I've read it as an adult, and I was never given that impression. The only characters the book says look alike are the five brothers. I
Jan 09, 2008 E rated it it was ok
Shelves: picturebooks
It's a classic, but it was way too upsetting for me when I read it in kindergarten and I never liked it after that. (The death of a child and four attempts at execution? I know the Grimms' fairy tales aren't much better, but sheesh... )

Like many, I'm also not too keen on the illustrations. It is SUCH an old racist stereotype to portray all Chinese as looking the same. The pictures - true products of their time - don't help kill that misconception. Of course it's absurd to think that every kid w
Jon williams
Jul 11, 2007 Jon williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: childrens
This was my favorite book in kindergarten. It may even be the book responsible for motivating me to become a reader. I loved the story and I love reading it to my kids now.
Jul 28, 2010 Stephen rated it liked it
Shelves: childrens, 1930-1953
3.0 stars. I remember reading this as a kid and liking it because it was unlike most of the other stories I was reading. A fun little Children's book.
Nov 05, 2012 Rachel rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens
According to my mom, when I was very young, I used to come into the bathroom every single night while she was trying to take a bath and tell her the story of The Five Chinese Brothers. Evidently, I was quite annoying. But not only do I not remember doing this, I also didn't remember the story at all. Even though as an adult I've reread most of my childhood favorites, this is one I never sought out, probably because I've been hearing for years that it's a little racist. Then today, I discovered a ...more
Jon(athan) Nakapalau
Every team is a group...but every group is not a team - the five Chinese brothers work as a team and accomplish more than a group could. Great book for a child just starting to participate in team sports.
Shiela Chan
Oct 10, 2012 Shiela Chan rated it it was amazing
(In the Phils) Remember when Nido powdered milk gave away stuff when you purchase the huge can? There was a time when the freebies were collection of short stories in little pamphlets. I was estatic! Literally begged my mom to keep buying milk to get my little hands on 'em (even if I'm lactose intolerant - stomach discomforts for the price of imagination). And I didn't regret it even once.

This story is one of my beloved fairy tales.

It starts like this. There were 5 chinese brothers and they loo
May 11, 2014 Stef rated it it was amazing
This book was first published in 1938 by an American author and is based on a well-known Chinese folk-tale. It tells the story of five identical brothers, each of whom has a specific and unusual ability. One can hold the sea in his mouth, one has an iron neck, one can stretch his legs, one can survive fire and one can hold his breath forever. These abilities are all put to the test when one of the brothers is sentenced to death for the accidental drowning of a small boy who died because he faile ...more
Dec 04, 2007 R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Harold
Shelves: 1974-2002
The freakiest illustration was the brother who swallowed the ocean.

And why didn't he just breathe through his nostrils instead of killing the little boy?

In the same league of cruel Oriental childrens stories as the, ah, filmstrip Rikki Tikki Tembo No Sarembo Chari Bari Ruchi Pip Berry Pembo.

Speaking of which, back when SNL was good (the Charles Rocket years) there was a oneshot character named Filmstrip Man who spoke in that...that style.

Sep 02, 2007 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely one of my favorite books as a kid. I took it out from the library over and over again. When I was a teenager and my brother was 4 or 5, I started taking it out again to read to him. An entertaining story of 5 brothers and their special abilities, and how they used them to help each other.
Mar 26, 2017 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-books
It is absolutely no secret I am pretty obsessed with China, I just got back from Beijing and I can't help but want to read anything set in China.

This is an older book and you know kinda disturbing as it is a children's book. It is pretty much five brother's trying to avoid an execution. Dark stuff right?

Yeah I loved every page. Not sure what that says about me.

The story is fantastic and I do think it is a great book kids should read though as it teaches about Team work and the importance of li
Dec 30, 2012 Amy rated it it was ok
Shelves: childrens, reviewed
3.5 stars. I read The Five Chinese Brothers to my niece and nephew last night. It's a book that my husband read as a child, and so I thought I'd give it a try on the kids.

The story is violent, I won't lie. A kid drowns and The First Chinese Brother in this story is held responsible for the kid's death. He's arrested, tried, and ancient Chinese justice is meted out to this brother (i.e., he's sentenced to death, and the method in which that sentence is to be carried out is grisly). Hijinks ensue
Oct 03, 2013 Beverly rated it really liked it
If I am not mistaken, I remember first seeing this book on the Captain Kangaroo show. His show was great for advocating reading to children.
While dated (and some claim stereotypical), it is still a good story about overcoming overwhelming odds through trickery and deceit. But the first brother wasn't really guilty of the crime he was to be executed for anyway.
Oct 12, 2007 Shanna rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Grades 3-5
The Five Chinese Brothers, is a trickster tale where one brother gets in some trouble and the rest of them use their special abilities to help him get out of it. A good book for problem-solving lessons. I used this one to go along with math trail blazers unit on graphing.
Aug 07, 2012 Robin rated it it was amazing
One of the best read-aloud stories for primary students, despite its racist reputation. a great lead-in to discussions about responsibility and justice. May also be used with middle schoolers to discuss prejudice and racism in literature, as well as banned books.
A cute briefly illustrated but detailed little book about five brothers who each have different talents:—
First brother who could swallow the sea;
Second brother who had an iron neck;
Third Brother who could stretch and stretch his legs;
Fourth Brother who could not be burned;
And Fifth Brother who could hold his breath indefinitely..

..this story goes into telling a tale of First Brother showing off his talents to a mischievous little boy—as he held the sea forewarning the boy to return when he need
The actual story begins with the first Chinese brother going out to fish, he brings with him a young boy from town who has begged repeatedly to go out with him. Before the fishing begins the first Chinese brother reminds the boy that he must obey his hand signals and return to shore when he calls him back. He then proceeds to bend over and draw the entire ocean into his mouth, revealing the ocean floor. The young boy runs about happily collecting stones and other treasures. He sees but chooses t ...more
Miya Yin
Sep 20, 2016 Miya Yin rated it really liked it
Basing on a well-known Chinese folktale, the story talks about five Chinese brothers who look exactly alike and each of them has a special and different ability. The first brother can swallow the sea. The second brother has an iron neck. The third can stretch his legs. The Fourth cannot be burned. And the fifth can hold his breath indefinitely. Unfortunately, the first brother is sentenced to death due to an accident in which a young boy is drowned in the sea for failing to keep a promise. And o ...more
Kiera Burnett
Aug 26, 2014 Kiera Burnett rated it liked it
Shelves: t-l-307, folklore
Summary and Critique:
One man has the unique ability to swallow the entire sea so that he may gather fish to sell at the market. One day, a little boy goes out with the man. The boy disobeys the man and when he can no longer hold the water, he lets it out, drowning the boy. The townspeople try to punish the man by killing him in multiple ways, but each attempt proves unsuccessful as each of the methods match a talent of the brothers. One concern with this story is that it discusses capital punis
Renee Clark
Mar 26, 2015 Renee Clark rated it really liked it
I choose this book because I recognized the name from when I was a child and wanted to re-read it now that I'm older. This book is about five Chinese brothers who all have a different ability. These are not your typical abilities, but one's that are shocking! I like how this connects to people in real life because everyone is unique in their own ways, although, the abilities of the five Chinese brothers aren't realistic. Yellow, black, and white are the only colors used in the illustrations of t ...more
Chris Torok
Apr 12, 2015 Chris Torok rated it it was amazing
The people who complain about the "intense violence" must be either very naive and easily influenced by a children's book or just plain stupid. Violence should not be the highlight of the story. Stories are not about face value. You should learn something from the book as it is useful as a tool. As for racial undertones. I don't think that word means what you think it means. Declaring that 5 brothers look the same, regardless of ethnicity, does not declare racism. That is just absurd. Even sayin ...more
Jul 14, 2015 Mandina rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
Oh I am so glad I found this book again! I would often tell my friends about this story, remembering it from when I was a child, and thinking it was such a fun and great story. I am very happy to say that, now at age 21, I still think it a fun story! It saddens me that this book is under attack for its lack of "political correctness" or its "offensiveness." As a child, and now, that wasn't what the story was. I never thought about the racial issues or the depictions of the people in the drawings ...more
Margaret Chind
Apr 16, 2013 Margaret Chind rated it liked it
Recommended to Margaret by: Memoria Press Second Grade
AppleBlossom read this one aloud to me from the 1988 Childcraft book. We noted the 1984 Childcraft had different illustrations. I remember this story from my own childhood. Not incredible, but interesting. Makes me want to go read The Story about Post Ping and another fable... something about a fisherman's wife...
Excerpts and/or reprints included in Stories And Fables.
Sep 24, 2011 ABC rated it did not like it
Shelves: older-kids
This story just does not make a very good children`s book. First, a child dies. Then, as punishment, the first brother is sentenced to be executed and the storyline is how he manages to escape being killed.

It is pretty to difficult to explain words like "execution" "drown" "smother" "burn" in a bedtime story!
Asha Seth
Jan 02, 2012 Asha Seth rated it liked it
Who hasn't read this tale of the five Chinese brothers with extra-ordinary powers? Now, we prefer, X-Men and Spider-Man and similar other super-heroes, but in childhood days listening to even the silliest tales like The Five Chinese Brothers used to be so exciting to acquaint with.
Feb 06, 2012 Laura rated it liked it
As others have commented, nobody would mistake this for a children's book written or published since 1960. But my boys really like it. Maybe they find its frank account of mortality thrilling?
Aug 23, 2007 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens
Most people who have read this book, I think, have been profoundly disturbed by at least one of the brothers. For me it was the sea-swallower.
Nov 30, 2012 Audrey rated it really liked it
Lovely child's tale with the even more important lesson to learn. Every child should experience THE FIVE CHINESE BROTHERS, regardless of your ethnicity.
Oct 16, 2007 Annie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sean, awsome book. I just remember that one of the brothers tried to suck up the ocean or something. Ahh, childhood.
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Claire Huchet Bishop (1899 – 13 March 1993) was a children's novelist and librarian, winner of the Newbery Honor for Pancakes-Paris and All Alone, and the Josette Frank Award for Twenty and Ten. The Five Chinese Brothers won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1959.

An American born in France or Geneva, Switzerland, Bishop attended the Sorbonne and started the first children's library in France. After
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