LOVELY REVIEW IN THE CANBERRA TIMES

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac is very much a traditional tale. It begins ‘‘Long ago in Ancient China’’ and ends ‘‘And that is why, to this very day, cats have hated rats’’. It tells the tale of 13 animals who race across a river to decide which animals will become part of the Chinese Zodiac, which has only 12 categories. Gabrielle Wang’s text is beautifully articulated as she uses traditional folktale cadences to tell the story of how each animal approaches the task according to its nature – the tiger leaps, the rabbit jumps on a log, the horse plunges in, and the pig falls asleep in the mud. Sally Rippin and Regine Abos have combined to produce stunning illustrations based on Chinese painting techniques. Presented on watermarked backgrounds, deeply coloured in olive greens and yellow ochres, the characters are deftly outlined with thick black brushstrokes. The illustrations of Rat and Cat hitching a ride on Ox is gently engaging, the picture of Pig asleep on his back in the mud delightfully humorous, and the images of the flying Dragon and the leaping Tiger are full of power and movement. This is a wonderful story, cleverly told and beautifully produced. The inclusion of the Chinese Zodiac at the end of the book makes it a perfect storytelling package, andone which well and truly shows the power of the fable, be it traditional or modern.

Dr Reeder is a Canberra editor, author and illustrator, whose historical novel Lost! A True Tale from the Bush (2009) has been short-listed in the CBCA Book of the Year Awards. Her most recent picture book is I’ve Got a Feeling! (National Library of Australia).

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