Six Chinese Brothers: An Ancient Tale: 02/08/13
Once upon a time a family of brothers with amazing abilities. One of the brothers commits a crime and is sentenced to death. By asking for one last night at home the brothers were able to take each others place until there were no ways left to run the execution. For their devotion to father and family, the execution is called off.
That's the basis of a Chinese folktale. The number of brothers varies. The version that's probably best known for better (or worse) here is Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Hutchet Bishop. There's also Seven Chinese Brothers by Margaret Mahy.
My favorite of the lot is Six Chinese Brothers by Hou-Tien Cheng. The brother who can drink up the entire ocean (the final form of execution being drowning in the bay) is replaced by two brothers with stretchy powers (one of arms and one of legs). The drowning is thus adverted by being able to stand on the bottom of the sea.
Somehow the progression of one punishment to another seem more logical to me. The ability to stand on the bottom of the sea seems more likely than the ability to swallow the entire sea!Also, this book avoids the unpleasantness of a child's death in lieu of thievery.
The best feature of the book, though, are the illustrations. Instead of having five identical bright yellow Simpsonesque brothers, there are six distinct brothers created from cutting paper outlines. They are done in red and black paper and are so much more interesting to look at than the westernized stereotype of Chinese men.