Friday, February 15, 2008

The Five Chinese Brothers

The Five Chinese Brothers
Claire Huchet Bishop and Kurt Wiese
Coward-McCann, 1938

Gotta loves those days when it was OK for the death of a child to be the centerpiece of a kid's book. Based on an old Chinese folktale, a child is drowned out of his own ignorance and arrogance, thus setting off a series of events that puts the magical powers of five Chinese brothers to the test.

The First Chinese Brother could swallow the sea.
The Second Chinese Brother had an iron neck.
The Third Chinese Brother could stretch and stretch his legs.
The Fourth Chinese Brother could not be burned.
And the Fifth Chinese Brother could hold his breath indefinitely.

The swallowing of the sea brother is the raddest. I mean, just think of all the super cool wonders you could uncover at the bottom of the depths. (I used to have a reoccuring dream as a child that I would be on the beach when all the lost toys of the world would wash up upon the shore. Man, those dreams were sweet. Anywho...)

This classic is still in print, but I snagged this '89 Trumpet Club edition for 49 cents at Goodwill. I never owned FCBs back in the day, but remember taking it out from the library on occasion. I'm a big fan of Wiese's, but never knew anything about Ms. Bishop. According to Wikipedia, she was a French-born American who attended the Sorbonne and started the first children's library in France... and later went on to work for the New York City Public Library. She won a Newbery Honor in '47 for Pancakes-Paris about a Parisian boy and his box of pancake mix.

As for FCSs... the moral of the story? Kids, don't be dumba**s and do what grownups tell you to do or not only will you die, but you'll get said grownups into very hot water.

Also by:
The Story About Ping
The Man Who Lost His Head
The Wonderful Story of Ting Ling


KJ said...

Ping is one of my very favorites. I love the blue and yellow illustrations. I checked this out of the library frequently as a child...

Unknown said...

WOW - I used to love this book as a kid, I had completely forgotten about it until I read your post.
I'm going to have to track it down.

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