Fuse 8 n’ Kate: The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop and Kurt Wiese
A little while ago Kate asked me, “Bring me a bad book. Like, a really good bad book.” Well, I don’t want to give anything away but I may have hit on something. My husband and I were just discussing the other day the fact that this book was ubiquitous in our youth. If you were born in the late 70s or early 80s, the odds are good that somebody you know read it to you. This all ties in quite closely to current discussions of picture books with racist elements that sit blithely on shelves in children’s rooms anywhere. Remind me to show Kate They Were Strong and Good one of these days . . .
In case you’ve ever wondered what our recording set-up looks like, Drew, the resident Penguinologist, put together this quickie video on a whim. It’s haphazard but fun.
How’s THIS for a first sentence?
While I appreciate that The Book Hound took the time to draw a connection between the Dionne quintuplets and the publication of this book, the assertion that, “While it is possible to conclude the illustrations in The Five Chinese Brothers are ethnic stereotypes, although not everyone agrees with that, it is impossible to make a case that the text contains or implies a racist premise, unless one misreads the first sentence,” is an idea that holds no water.
What is the name we have for an image in a picture book where you have to flip the book on its side like this? I simply cannot remember.
It is not difficult to find the Weston Woods/Scholastic Teacher’s Guide for this book. Note what it says at the end: “Other book based films and videos about Chinese culture are available from Weston Woods. These include: THE STORY ABOUT PING by Marjorie Flack TIKKI TIKKI TEMBO written by Arlene Mosel and illustrated by Blair Lent”. Just . . . . wow.
The two alternate versions of this book that have been created include the following:
I made a mistake in the recording, misremembering that Grace Lin wrote this second book as well as illustrated it. In truth, to date we have yet to see a version written by anyone of Chinese or Chinese-American descent.
You may be happy to hear, I was able to find the video of a boy reading Owl Babies to actual baby owls. Enjoy:
Filed under: Fuse 8 n' Kate
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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