What the Rat Told Me: A Legend of the Chinese Zodiac by Marie Sellier, Catherine Louis and Wang Fei
This picture book is adapted from a Chinese Buddhist legend that explains why the cat and rat don’t get along at the same time it introduces the Chinese zodiac. The Great Emperor of Heaven invited all of the animals to visit him before sunrise on the top of the Jade Mountain. Cat protests that it is too early for her, but rat assures her that he will wake her in time. But when the time comes in the morning, rat plays a trick by not waking the cat. He also manages to slip to the front of the group by riding up the mountain on the ox’s head. So Rat becomes the first symbol of the zodiac and the animals continue from there. The book concludes with the Chinese zodiac and the pleasure of finding out your corresponding animal.
This book is so graphically strong and stunning. Done just in black and red, the images are linoleum prints. Each zodiac animal is depicted along with its Chinese symbol. The text is nicely simple and strong, a great pairing with the images. Each zodiac animal is shown having the characteristics that the zodiac gives them.
This is one of those books that looks so very simple but takes such great skill. Perfect for zodiac units around Chinese New Year, this book would be rough for story times with mixed ages because you would spend a lot of time looking up dates. It might be nice for a classroom with a limited age range but only if you aren’t worried about children becoming monkeys, horses and oxen. Appropriate for ages 5-8.