The oft-retold story of how the Chinese astrological symbols came to occupy their places.
The Jade Emperor majestically rings his gong, and the race begins. Twelve animals will be honored. In this Australian import, each animal receives a brief description of its significant character traits, which have as much to do with success as speed. Powerful Dragon, though he stops along the way to help “people and animals suffering from a terrible drought,” slowing him down, is awarded the fifth year. The cooperative natures of Gentle Goat, Clever Monkey and Lucky Rooster, the playful nature of Faithful Dog and the lazy disposition of Happy Pig are evidenced in the terse but descriptive text. Ironically, while Charming Rat and Friendly Cat (previously pals) ride on Kind Ox, the not-really-so-charming rodent pushes the innocent feline off Ox into the river and out of the zodiac forever, thus setting cats against rats for all time. It’s nothing very original, but illustrations incorporating Chinese ink, linocuts and digital media in browns, oranges and greens are handsome, and each animal is named in maroon rectangles inscribed in white, looking as if they were produced with Chinese seals. There is no background information, but readers born from 1924 to 2043 can consult the list at the end and discover their zodiacal characters.
While not an essential purchase, this could easily join the ever-growing flock of attractive picture books about the Chinese zodiac. (Picture book/folk tale. 5-8)