“Strong and passionate…idealistic and independent…”: These are some of the characteristics of Dragon-Year people in the Chinese Zodiac.
The 12-year cycle is well-known in North America because of the ubiquitous Chinese-restaurant placemats. This series has appeared annually to provide a back story for each animal, highlighting the personality traits that are said to influence the people born in particular years. Selecting some elements of Chinese culture, such as the Dragon Boat races that still take place today, the dragon’s power over water, the dragon’s legendary features as an amalgam of elements from the other real Zodiac animals and the pearl, a symbol of prosperity awarded at the end of the race, Chin weaves an original tale. It extols the dragon Dom’s talents and initiative as he helps the boy Bo and the other Zodiac figures work together and win the boat race, demonstrating that “dragons are energetic and shoulder responsibility well.” Humorous, motion-filled color illustrations are full of large-eyed, obnoxiously cute animals and funny-looking people that appear as if they have stepped out of an animated TV cartoon (Wood’s usual gig). None of the humans look particularly Chinese, and anachronistic elements such as a Polaroid-style photo of Dom pull the tale away from its traditional roots.
For those who want a sugar-coated, didactic Chinese New Year story. (Picture book. 4-7)