Morgan Hale's Reviews > The Five Chinese Brothers

The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop
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Mar 13, 12

I own a copy

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 always just assumed they were quintuplets, so of course they looked the same. If you changed the ethnicity from Chinese to Australian, this book would not give you the impression that all Australians look the same. While I understand this to be a culturally sensitive point, I think, in this case, more is being read into the story than was intended.

The second complaint is about appropriateness for children. As an adult, I can say that this book had no adverse effects on me. I'm college educated, married, employed, have no history of drug or alcohol abuse, and no fixation on death. Despite the fact that a death does occur in this story and there's multiple representations of attempted executions, I turned out better than fine (as did my uncle, who read it before me). There's no reason to believe that kids today won't handle these issues just as well. If it makes your kid ask questions, fine. Answer them. That's what a parent does. For my part, I didn't have any questions about death or ethics when I read it as a kid. I just thought it was a funny story and I tried to figure out which of the brother's powers I would most like to have.

If you can handle all that, then I'd definitely recommend this book.

I do have a question, though, for those more knowledgable about it than I am. My edition of the book has the same image shown on this site, but the cover is red instead of white. Does anybody know why this is? Is it merely an older version? I haven't seen any images of a read cover anywhere else.
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