Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Great Race (The Story of the Chinese Zodiac) - book review

Written by: Dawn Casey
Illustrated by: Anne Wilson
Read Alone: Ages 6-10
Read Together: Ages 4-8
Hardcover; Jacketed; Full-color illustrations; 32pp;
8.25 x 10.75 inches

Ever wondered why the names of animals are used in the Chinese zodiac? Ever wondered too how come there is NO cat in the Chinese zodiac? This book tells it all in a playful, colorful and easy-to-remember story.

The story starts with the Jade Emperor hosting a race to start a calendar and name each year after a different animal. He had announced that whoever will finish a swimming race across a wide river first will be declared the first animal sign of the calendar. The oder of how the animals will arrive, will be used for the order of the chinese calendar.

During that time the rat and the cat were the best of friends. However, near the end of the race, the rat pushed over the cat down the river so the rat could jump to the finish line and win the race. The cat who hates the water tried very hard to get out of the water but just couldn’t make it to the shore. This is the reason why there is NO cat in the chinese calendar. This is also the reason why up to this day, the cat and the rat are the worst of enemies.

The rat won the race and as the Jade Emperor said, “Rat may be small but he is also smart!”! The other animals who came after rat were in the following order:

2nd: ox

3rd: tiger

4th: Hare

5th: dragon

6th: horse

7th: snake

8th: sheep

9th: monkey

10th: cockerel

11th: dog

12th: pig

Reading this book to my daughter is like learning a new lesson for me. I was like, “huh, now that is the reason why…?”. I really enjoyed the book as much as my daughter did. Although she can not associate the meanings of the story behind the book, i could tell based from her attentiveness and interest with the book, that this captured her as well.

But what I love about this book is at the very end of it there are two pages devoted to the characters of the 12 animals included in the chinese calendar with the corresponding years that these animals represent. For the fun of it, check your animal sign and see if the characters of these animals are similar to yours:

Rats - are clever, ambitious and quick-witted.

Ox - are honest, patient and hardworking.

- are brave, powerful and daring.

Hare - are lucky, kind and peaceful.

Dragon - are powerful, strong and energetic.

Snake - are calm, wise and elegant.

Horse - are popular, independent and fun.

Sheep - are artistic, loving and tender-hearted.

Money - are happy, confident and enthusiastic

Cockerel - are adventurous, kind and hardworking.

Dog - are loyal, affectionate and generous.

Pig - are noble, helpful and forgiving

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