WHY RAT COMES FIRST

A STORY OF THE CHINESE ZODIAC

The Chinese-American author says that, when she was a child, her father read her several folk tales explaining the ordering of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, but she preferred this one, which he had ``made up.'' From his throne high in the sky, the Jade King invites all the animals to a feast, but just 12 come. To honor them, the king decides to give their names to the years in the calendar cycle. Rat suggests that he should be first: he's clever; Ox counters by pointing out his own strength. When the people of earth are asked to choose ``the most special,'' gentle ox beguiles the children by giving them rides. Rat, declaring that Ox's size gives him an unfair advantage, cajole the Prime Minister into transforming him into a giant rat: most special, as everyone agrees. Spiced by mildly satirical events, but the good-humored spirit appropriate to the New Year prevails in this unusual, well-told tale. The Japanese-American illustrator's stylized art is lively and colorful. Details on the Chinese lunar calendar are included. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 15, 1991

ISBN: 0-89239-072-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Children's Book Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1991

A DOG NAMED SAM

A book that will make young dog-owners smile in recognition and confirm dogless readers' worst suspicions about the mayhem caused by pets, even winsome ones. Sam, who bears passing resemblance to an affable golden retriever, is praised for fetching the family newspaper, and goes on to fetch every other newspaper on the block. In the next story, only the children love Sam's swimming; he is yelled at by lifeguards and fishermen alike when he splashes through every watering hole he can find. Finally, there is woe to the entire family when Sam is bored and lonely for one long night. Boland has an essential message, captured in both both story and illustrations of this Easy-to-Read: Kids and dogs belong together, especially when it's a fun-loving canine like Sam. An appealing tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8037-1530-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

HOME

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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