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The Five Chinese Brothers
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The Five Chinese Brothers

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  16,639 ratings  ·  262 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 June 18th 1996 by Puffin Books (first published 1938)
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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.
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
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.
Morgan Hale
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
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 williams
Jul 11, 2007 Jon williams rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Shiela Chan
(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 and I was ecstatic! 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
Gosh it's been ages. But I do remember enjoying this. Compare to The Seven Chinese Brothers which is supposed to be better cuz it's all historical, w/ author's note etc.
Dec 04, 2007 R. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.

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
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.
Kiera Burnett
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
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
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
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.
I have mixed emotions about this book. At first, you notice the cover with 5 chinese brothers looking exactly alike and I couldn't help but think "A Single Story" The image of asian people and how they are being represented. Undertanding that I was reading a Chinese Folktale, focusing one's attending to the story and the message being conveyed (family,working together, problem-solving). Since I am an 8th grade teacher, I was also looking for ways I could actually use this book. I started to cons ...more
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!
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.
Dec 04, 2007 Shanna rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.
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.
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?
Lovely child's tale with the even more important lesson to learn. Every child should experience THE FIVE CHINESE BROTHERS, regardless of your ethnicity.
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.
Sean, awsome book. I just remember that one of the brothers tried to suck up the ocean or something. Ahh, childhood.
Kee Chang
Bishop, Claire Huchet. The Five Chinese Brothers (1938). Once upon a time in China, there lived five identical Chinese brothers, each with special skills. The story is about how they outwitted the court and save their brother’s life by using their unique skills. From our current perspective, this rather insensitive storybook is perplexing because it is target age range of 4 and up. Stereotypical images of “Orientals” and violence themes such as execution are some of the themes that may not be ap ...more
I love this book, I don't care what anyone says about it.
Aw, this book! I loved this book! When I was in second grade we were all divided into groups, and the advanced readers (Me! That was me!) got to act this particular picture book out in front of our peers. I was the brother had a neck of iron, rendering him incapable of being beheaded. I thought it was awesome at the time, although really as mutant powers go, it’s pretty limited. I mean, you could still take an ax to the chest. Or the head. Or any of your vital organs / arteries. So clearly it wo ...more
Tracy Poff
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 ...more
The Five Chinese Brothers is a retelling of a Chinese tale about five brothers who look exactly alike, yet have different powers. The brothers use these powers to their advantage to keep from being killed after the first brother unintentionally causes the death of a little boy.

I write this review from the POV of a student studying multicultural literature and a teacher. I did like the story, which, when read aloud to young children, would cause them to laugh at the clever brothers who outwitted
Sally Maria
Oct 13, 2008 Sally Maria rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people of all ages
OK, today the cover and the fact that these brothers all looked alike might be deemed racist, or at the very least stereotypic.

However, one has to realize this was written about 70 years ago. Fact is, it wasn't long before this was written that in California, you would see railroad workers looking very similar to the illustration. The world was larger then :)

This was my favorite book in childhood, and I read it to my children and grandchildren and it has become a family literary staple.

Each Ch
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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
More about Claire Huchet Bishop...
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