Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac by Gabrielle Wang, illustrated by Sally Rippin and Regine Abos (Walker Books)
PB RRP $ 16.95
ISBN 9781742032092
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

 This book is superbly produced from the wonderful covers that depict a tiger leaping from the back cover to the front, to the last pages that document the Twelve Animals of the Chinese Zodiac with accompanying Chinese symbols.

The Jade Emperor announces a race which will enable the first twelve animals that cross the river, to have a year named after them.

Friends Rat and Cat catch a free ride on Ox and show him the way. Dog follows splashing. Rooster finds a raft asks for help and Monkey clears the way while Goat pushes the raft into the water. Snake hides in Horse’s mane for a free ride, and Pig eats until her tummy is big ‘as a balloon’, so she falls asleep.

Dragon flies out across the river causing the earth to shake with sound. But it’s Rat that gets the first year named after him with Ox claiming the second.  When Rabbit asks Tiger what kept him, Tiger answers that he ‘was carried downstream on a strong current’. He claims third place with Rabbit taking fourth after jumping from a log behind him.

The Jade Emperor questions Dragon’s lateness. Dragon explains how he came across a drought so he ‘stopped to make rain’. Next is Snake, then Horse, Goat, Monkey and Rooster, Dog and finally Pig. Unfortunately, Cat misses out. That’s how the Chinese Zodiac was created.

This beautifully illustrated book teaches children about the Chinese Zodiac in an educational as well as entertaining way. The superb drawings are created with mixed media comprised of Chinese brush and ink, digital media and linocut. Thick black brush strokes and shades of bronze, burnished gold and golden browns dominate the colours. Green plays a big role on the dragon pages. The facial expressions of the animals are terrific and will appeal to young readers as they follow the race to the finish line.

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