Book of the Week — Five Chinese Brothers

February 21, 2008



Design Mom Reader, Burgin, emailed me about her new blog: Vintage Children’s Books My Kid Loves. And before I even checked it out I knew I would love it. Did I mention it was about vintage books for kids? How could I not love it.

One of the books she featured is The Five Chinese Brothers — do you remember this one? I loved it as a child!

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.

It’s fairly impossible not to be hooked after reading that. Plus, that drawing of the brother with his cheeks full of the sea — awesome. You could just feel he was ready to burst. I swear I remember every page of the book.

I can’t believe I haven’t added this to our library yet — and was so glad to be reminded of it. You can find a hardcover edition of The Five Chinese Brothers here.


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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 KJ February 22, 2008 at 12:07 am

oh how funny…I was just preparing a future post on all my favorite vintage children’s books! This one is cute. I also love The Story About Ping!

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2 Jan February 22, 2008 at 12:16 am

My son based a whole story around this but on Turkeys for Thanksgiving. Its how these turkeys fooled the cooker with their acts of power. He was in 5th
grade and got an A. In fact they kept that paper for years. I went and got it back though. Funny memories this post brought back.

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3 Anonymous February 22, 2008 at 12:19 am

My mother-in-law suffered a massive heart attack last year, during her recovery in the hospital she asked me to tell her this story. Boy was I glad I knew it! This is a great classic!

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4 compulsive writer February 22, 2008 at 12:21 am

I loved this book, too. I’m so glad to find it in hardcover.

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5 veeda February 22, 2008 at 1:29 am

This is one of my favorites. Thanks for the link to the hardcover.

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6 Julie February 22, 2008 at 8:05 am

Oh, wow! I haven’t thought about this book in years, and your post made me a bit sentimental today. For, you see, my grandmother had this book in the little library in her attic. As a young girl, I’d spend hours up there just reading through the story treasures. Thanks for the reminder of those happy times.

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7 pve design February 22, 2008 at 8:58 am

One of my favorites! Fond memories of that book -
I grew up one of 7, 3 brothers and 3 sisters, and always thought that it would make a great book!
Thanks for the blast from the past!

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8 bran February 22, 2008 at 9:08 am

My 8yo son has always loved this story.

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9 Shauna February 22, 2008 at 10:28 am

This has been one of my very favorite stories of all time. Thanks for the reminder to read it to my little ones again!
I will definitely order this in harcover! Thanks for the tip!

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10 Sarah Jane February 22, 2008 at 11:59 am

I am so glad you posted this! This was a FAVORITE as a kid…how could I have forgotten! Just glad that it isn’t out of print! horray!!

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11 Denise February 22, 2008 at 12:24 pm

Loved that book as a kid. And I can just picture the illustration of the brother with his mouth full of the sea. Sometimes pregnancy makes me feel like that guy. Thanks for the reminder!

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12 Jinii February 22, 2008 at 2:15 pm

I love this story. My mom use to read it to me all the time when I was younger.

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13 Super Zoe February 22, 2008 at 4:36 pm

That book always made me both want to live in China…and a little afraid of China! It was magical, though! I loved it!

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14 stephanie February 22, 2008 at 5:30 pm

I loved this book when I was little too, but you won’t find it on most library shelves anymore because it’s considered racially offensive.

As an adult, looking at the illustrations at all of the identical looking Chinese people, I guess I can see how some people might take offense. It does perpetuate a lot of stereotypes.

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15 Anonymous February 22, 2008 at 7:49 pm

I love, love this book (and the Story about Ping). I bought both before I was even pregnant.

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16 petit elefant February 22, 2008 at 8:49 pm

I’ve been looking for this book forever! Thank you for featuring one of my top 5 childhood book picks.

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17 Michelle February 23, 2008 at 10:58 am

I loved this book when i was little! The illustrations were so funny and captivating! Thanks for the reminder I will have to find this one for Rose!

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18 colleeeen February 24, 2008 at 1:22 pm

this is also a beloved book in our house, although i am a little uncomfortable with the village all clamoring for the brother’s death.

and yes, we love the Ping story as well. i adore all the boats on the river and the little boy with the barrel tied to him so he will float.

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19 esmith2112 February 25, 2008 at 1:46 am

Reminds me of the book. Tikki Tikki Tembo. Read that one and then try to get the saying out of your head! Impossible.

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20 scribbler February 28, 2008 at 1:14 pm

Thanks for the shout out Gabrielle. You are the best!

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21 E March 4, 2012 at 9:07 pm

The people’s faces are not the same. Their hairstyles are, but for two and a half centuries that hairstyle was mandated on pain of death in China, and the book was written only a few decades after the laws changed.

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