The Five Chinese Brothers

Written by Claire Huchet Bishop

Illustrated by Kurt Wiese

chinesebrotherspicClassic tale of five brothers who looked exactly alike and how they were able to avoid a public execution and prove the innocence of one of the brothers. Although each of the brothers looked exactly alike, each one possessed a unique and special power. The first brother could swallow the sea, the second had an iron neck, the third could stretch and stretch his legs, the fourth could not be burned, and the fifth could hold his breath indefinitely. The plot involves the first brother fishing in the sea when a little boy begs to go with him. He agrees on condition that the boy promises to obey him promptly. But when the first brother swallows the sea, the little boy begins to fill his pockets with the items left behind on land. Despite his warning to the boy that he could no longer hold the sea back, the boy refused to come return and was swallowed by the sea.

The brother was arrested, tried and condemned to death. He pleaded with the judge to return home to say good-bye to his mother and that is when the brothers conspire to use their talents to thwart the execution one by one. The town is amazed that the brother cannot be killed and are eventually convinced that he is innocent.

This book was originally released by Coward-McCann, Inc. in 1938 and was reprinted by Scholastic Book Services beginning in 1966. I grew up reading this humorous and clever classic and was happy to share it with my own children and students. Recommended especially for children in the five to eight age range, but it can certainly be enjoyed by any age. This book is available on amazon in multiple editions and in many formats.