Friday, June 12, 2009

Oh, How Times Have Changed

I don't know what made me think about a book I read in elementary school, but I mentioned it to my wife to see if she had heard about it. The book, called 'Five Chinese Brothers', is one you proabably won't find in a elementary library today. Based on a Chinese fable, it was originally published in 1938.

I remember loving this book. I bet I checked it out a dozen or more times. I read it over and over again. The blatant stereotypes and inexplicable story line were lost on me. Here is the summary from Publishers Weekly:

The beloved story of five brothers who use their special powers to rescue the
First Brother from being unfairly put to death. Ages 4-8.

Note how it says this is a book suitable for ages 4-8! Wow. I didn't bother to ask why the first brother was sentenced to die. I was just interested in how they escaped. To catch you up, the plotline is summarized as such:

(1) a little boy drowns, never to be seen again
(2) one brother is tried, arrested and sentenced to have his head cut off
(3) the people of the village assemble in the village to witness the execution where the "executioner took his sword and struck a mighty blow"
(4) the next brother was sentenced to be drowned and was thrown overboard from a boat
(5) the next brother is sentenced to be burned alive - he was tied up to a stake and set fire
(6) the next brother is sentenced to be suffocated - he's shovelled into an oven

Apparently, there is a new, watered-down version. I am sure it doesn't have the 'charm' of racial stereotypes and executions.

Amazing the things you remember from your childhood.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey, you forgot to mention that each of the brothers have a special power to survive the execution.