From School Library Journal
Grade 1–3—Willow's grandmother tells the story of the 12 animals for whom the years in the Chinese calendar are named, unfortunately omitting Cat's role. When the child's cat, Mao, scratches Nai Nai and she pushes the animal off her lap, Willow and Mao become angry and head upstairs. Mao becomes Cat and tells how the Jade Emperor once invited 13 animals to a race. Dragon flies with Rabbit and Rooster on his back. Rat and his friend Cat sit on Ox as he and the other animals plunge into the river. Rat pushes Cat, who never learned to swim, into the water. By clawing his way onto a jutting rock, Cat watches as Rat jumps ashore ahead of Ox and wins. After Mao explains why the Year of the Rat comes first and why Cat and Rat are enemies, the little girl and her Nai Nai make up their disagreement. So's bright watercolor paintings bring the human characters to life against a pure white background, while traditional Chinese motifs and a subdued palette set the animals in the race apart. More pages are given to Willow, Mao, and Nai Nai than to the actual Chinese legend, and this tale-within-a-tale framework may be confusing to young readers. A simpler retelling is Dawn Casey's The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac
(Barefoot, 2006). Nevertheless, youngsters will enjoy listening to this story and seeing the beautiful watercolor illustrations.—Mary Jean Smith, Southside Elementary School, Lebanon, TN
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About the Author
DORIS ORGEL is the author of, among many titles, MY MOTHER’S DAUGHTER, BREMEN TOWN MUSICIANS, and THE DEVIL IN VIENNA (Bank Street Award for Best Book of the Year). She lives in New York City.
MEILO SO is a widely renowned artist of children’s books. She lives in England.