Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Seven Chinese Brothers - A Book to Love - The Meek Moose gets to say "Ai-Ya!"

My book of choice to share today:

Now, once upon a long, long time ago- in the state of Alaska, far, far away- I read this book as a kid:

When I became a teacher there was a bit of a hubbub about this book being outrageously politically incorrect, and racist, and a poor show all around.  And I really don't know much about that, and I'm unsure of my opinion at this time, seeing as how the last time I read it we were all running around the playground calling each other "commies".  In Alaska anyway.  I don't know if you had the whole fear of communism deal going on down here in the "lower 48".  Although, surely you did- with Patrick Swayze and the whole Red Dawn deal. And don't even mention the new one!  I refuse to see it.  Even though it is on Netflix and no one would ever know...

Yar- tangent- ok, then. What I remember about The Five Chinese Brothers that made me NOT really want to read it again was that- heck people,  the first dang brother drowns a little kid!  Granted, it was an accident.  Granted, the little kid was NOT FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS.  And yes, clearly, there is a need to make kids realize that not following directions has consequences.  But shoot!  He totally dies. Dead. As in door nail.  Also, I had a near drowning experience as a kid and that assisted in me not liking this book a whole lot. #majorbaggage

HOWEVER, and Cheesy Pete, thank goodness for it- The Seven Chinese Brothers by Margaret Mahy does not seem to be creating a political hubbub, nor do I get mentally rattled by a drowning kid who doesn't listen because he's super greedy and picking up fish.  Maybe he was starving!  Maybe he was going to feed the whole village!  And he's just dead?! Sheesh.

The Seven Chinese Brothers has EXCELLENT cross-curricular tie-ins to make this a go-to book all through the year, and not just during your Ancient China unit.  Because some of you aren't so lucky to be able to teach Ancient China.  And that's a shame.  It's tons of fun!  My only problem with it is that my kids usually aren't even sure that they live in Virginia, which is in the United States, on the continent of North America, Western Hemisphere, planet Earth.  But if they really had a solid handle on that- I'd have no problems with Ancient China at all.

Let's get to the dirt here before I start talking about squirrels, for heaven's sake.

The two books are similar in that they both feature a group of nearly alike brothers who get into some trouble and have to use their unusual gifts to save each other.  The Five Brothers book is more of a legalistic proceeding in a local village, The Seven Brothers ties in history with the First Emperor and the Building of The Great Wall.  So right there- Seven Brothers is in the lead once you can tie it to content.

Language Arts:

This book is fabulous for discussing Setting.

Two very contrasting settings, in which the students can really talk about how one place is idyllic and peaceful where as the other is obviously hard and strife filled.  Excellent illustrations all around.

Repetitive text:

Margaret Mahy uses a few lines of repetitive text that help kids really get into retelling this story.

After two brothers go and do their deed- the kids have the layout and chime in with me in the read aloud.  And if they are saying the lines with you- then they are LISTENING! Hello, fluency practice. How are ya?

Higher Order Thinking:

This book also lends itself to inferring while reading, because the kids can try to reason WHICH brother will need to save the brother who is in trouble and HOW he will use his special gift to do this.  My kids really got into making an argument for who should go.  And they even argued that one of the brothers could have gone back twice and made the book even longer.

Figurative Language and Characterization:

The Emperor is described three different ways in figurative language.  And each time, we could stop and talk about "what the heck does that mean anyway?"  Can you whisper like a rumble of thunder?  What does that mean the Emperor was like?

Math Connections:

Ordinal Numbers. 

One of my kids piped up after just the second page- "Hey- they're using those numbers we use to line people up!"  Would I have liked for him to say ordinal numbers?  Of course.  But he made a connection and everyone else started to nod and say "Oh yeah!" Job accomplished.  I'll just jot a note down to myself to actually read this book WHEN we are doing ordinal numbers in the first place.


Distance is used through out the book in terms of "100 miles away".  How far is that really?  Can someone see or hear that far away?  

This particular scene where a brother can grow his legs in comparison to the depth of the sea.  Comparisons to where the water reaches him when they throw him in.  How deep is the sea for real?  So how tall did he actually grow?  If it was just his legs that stretched, how did he keep his balance?

The brother that lifted the bricks on his own.  How heavy were they?  What does this picture say about his strength when he is holding three with one hand?  Also- Geometry, rectangular prisms used to construct a building.

Time - uses of consecutive days and amounts of time like "half a minute" and "less than no time" are used throughout the story.  A great way to tie in clocks and calendars.


Engineering for sure-
Check out my other post about how we competed to make the Great Wall out of different materials.

Extreme Weather-
The end of the book you could tie in flooding and it's effects on people and constructions.  You could also debate whether the Great Wall was a effective flood barrier, and could that be used as an idea to help flood susceptible areas?

Next year, for the Great Wall challenge, I will make a bigger deal out of this picture so that they can really get how it is supposed to be WIDE so that people can run along the top.

Social Studies:

Yeah.  Duh- I know. However!  You can definitely get into fashions of the times and how their dress really spoke about their role in society.

Historically, the history of the Great Wall and how many people did lose their lives building it.  Compare the construction and purpose to that of the Great Pyramids.

And the book has tons more!  It's a real treasure!  Have you read it?  What did you think of it?

I'll be I'm linking up with Mrs. Jump's Class for her weekly book linky when it goes live. In the meantime, What's one of your favorite books?

Link all fixed up now!

My second linky- quick and cute, is brought to you by The Teaching Tribune:

Here's three random things about me you may not know.  But I'm compulsively honest, so I might have mentioned these before.  I just can't remember.  Because my memory isn't that awesome.  I bet Wonder Woman's is though.

And that's a wrap, Kittens!
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  1. It's on my reading list-thanks for sharing the wonderful commentary on this fantastic book. Smiles and stop by anytime!

  2. I use this book to teach teamwork.

  3. Loved your post! It was hilarious. And yes, we also ran around yelling commies. Good grief! And what's with almost dying? So glad you didn't!!
    Take care!

  4. I have this book! And I have never read it to the kids. Slapping myself upside the head. Guess I know what we will be reading next year when we are learning about China and Chinese New Year. I am also glad that you did not die. So, remember to take care of yourself.

  5. I have heard this story told orally, too, and it works... though I love the illustrations. Thanks for reminding me about it.
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