Review Blog

Mar 18 2010

The race for the Chinese zodiac by Gabrielle Wang

cover image

Ill. by Sally Rippin and Regine Abos. Black dog books, 2010. ISBN 978 1742031231
Picture book, all ages. Based on the Chinese legends about the naming of the Zodiac signs and how which animal came to be in the order it is, Gabrielle Wang has written a stunning book, full of life and energy as the animals cross the river in order to be first to get to the other side and so find a place in the zodiac. The Jade Emperor has spoken and each animal tries his luck, getting across the river in whatever way it can. The snake hitches a ride in the horse's mane, the rat and cat jump on board the ox, the pig, however, only interested in eating, stays behind to gorge, eventually floating across on his big bloated stomach.
Many values are underlined while reading the text. Themes of friendship and self interest, altruism and selfishness, concern for others and sharing, co-operation and goal setting - all find their way into the spare text and can bring classes to some understanding and discussion around how best to achieve a goal.
Children will adore the beautiful, well crafted and designed illustrations, redolent of Chinese calligraphy and painting style. Gabrielle Wang is well known for her novels for middle school readers, The hidden monastery and The garden of Empress Cassia spring to mind, showing the links between Australia and its Chinese population, while Sally Rippin is also acclaimed for her novels, such as Chenzi and the foreigner and picture books, about Fang Fang, while Regine Abos, a well respected graphic designer, is responsible for the layout and design. Gabrielle Wang's website gives a great deal more information about the book and its back story including suggestions for teachers to use the book, particularly during Chinese New Year.
Fran Knight

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