Daniel the puppy learns when to be brave in this bilingual, Chinese zodiac–inspired parable.
When Papa dog tells Daniel that he must look after his human friend Lin, Daniel eagerly promises to protect her. Having been warned of fantastical creatures they might encounter—the “fiery Phoenix,” the “sly dragon,” and the “ferocious tiger”—Daniel becomes perhaps a little too eager. He barks ferociously at a rooster and then a rat, unnecessarily rousing Lin and prompting warnings from Mama and Papa to be more careful. When Lin actually faces real danger, will Daniel recognize it and still be brave? Will readers be sufficiently invested to care? The text of this formulaic story simultaneously drags and elides: both the Chinese and English prose are stilted and wordy, while essential characters such as Lin remain unappealing and thin. The digital art, perhaps more suited to animated film than a picture book, adds a commercial feeling, providing neither the weight nor the depth already lacking in the story. Ideally, this book would offer a mirror to young readers familiar with the Chinese zodiac and a window to those who are not. Lin is ethnically ambiguous, with light brown eyes and dark hair, and the book forgoes any context, including only a brief description of characteristics associated with people born in the Year of the Dog. This edition has been updated with the inclusion of a translation into simplified Chinese.
Let this puppy pass. (Picture book. 4-8)