WHAT THE RAT TOLD ME

A LEGEND OF THE CHINESE ZODIAC

This pourquoi tale with a trickster slant, translated from the French, introduces the symbols of the Chinese zodiac. When the Great Emperor of Heaven invites all the animals to visit him before sunrise at the top of Jade Mountain, the rascally rat neglects to wake his friend, the cat, sneaks a ride between the ox’s horns and lands first at the emperor’s feet. The ruler rewards the rat’s cunning with the first year, and continues to grant each successive year to the next one in line, extolling each animal’s virtues in the process. Having missed its turn, the duped cat now considers the rat his enemy. This tall, slim book features Louis’s striking red-and-black linoleum prints, a double-page zodiac wheel and Wang Fei’s elegant calligraphy depicting each zodiac symbol; it is an apt companion to the team’s previous retelling, Legend of the Chinese Dragon (2008). Despite occasionally stiff prose, the story’s unique subject and engaging artwork create an enjoyable resource for celebrating Chinese New Year and may prompt children to invent their own symbols and attributes. (Picture book/folktale. 6-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-7358-2220-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2008

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BUBBA, THE COWBOY PRINCE

A FRACTURED TEXAS TALE

A Cinderella parody features the off-the-wall, whang-dang Texas hyperbole of Ketteman (The Year of No More Corn, 1993, etc.) and the insouciance of Warhola, who proves himself only too capable of creating a fairy godcow; that she's so appealingly whimsical makes it easy to accept the classic tale's inversions. The protagonist is Bubba, appropriately downtrodden and overworked by his wicked stepdaddy and loathsome brothers Dwayne and Milton, who spend their days bossing him around. The other half of the happy couple is Miz Lurleen, who owns ``the biggest spread west of the Brazos.'' She craves male companionship to help her work the place, ``and it wouldn't hurt if he was cute as a cow's ear, either.'' There are no surprises in this version except in the hilarious way the premise plays itself out and in Warhola's delightful visual surprises. When Lurleen tracks the bootless Bubba down, ``Dwayne and Milton and their wicked daddy threw chicken fits.'' Bubba and babe, hair as big as a Texas sun, ride off to a life of happy ranching, and readers will be proud to have been along for the courtship. (Picture book/folklore. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-590-25506-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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A lovely encouragement to young writers to persist.

HOW TO WRITE A STORY

This follow-up to How To Read a Story (2005) shows a child going through the steps of creating a story, from choosing an idea through sharing with friends.

A young black child lies in a grassy field writing in a journal, working on “Step 1 / Search for an Idea— / a shiny one.” During a walk to the library, various ideas float in colorful thought bubbles, with exclamation points: “playing soccer! / dogs!” Inside the library, less-distinct ideas, expressed as shapes and pictures, with question marks, float about as the writer collects ideas to choose from. The young writer must then choose a setting, a main character, and a problem for that protagonist. Plotting, writing with detail, and revising are described in child-friendly terms and shown visually, in the form of lists and notes on faux pieces of paper. Finally, the writer sits in the same field, in a new season, sharing the story with friends. The illustrations feature the child’s writing and drawing as well as images of imagined events from the book in progress bursting off the page. The child’s main character is an adventurous mermaid who looks just like the child, complete with afro-puff pigtails, representing an affirming message about writing oneself into the world. The child’s family, depicted as black, moves in the background of the setting, which is also populated by a multiracial cast.

A lovely encouragement to young writers to persist. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5666-8

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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