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Cat and Rat: The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac

Cat and Rat: The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac

by Ed Young

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To select the animals of the zodiac, the Jade Emperor has called for a race between all the animals.


To select the animals of the zodiac, the Jade Emperor has called for a race between all the animals.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“In this intriguing picture book, Caldecott Medalist Young...retells a Chinese folktale about the origins of the zodiac....Complex and well-told, the story will hold the reader's interest.” —Publishers Weekly

“Once again Mr. Young has brought ancient folktales to life with his stunning and, in the case of 'Cat and Rat,' startling artwork.” —New York Times Book Review

“Handsome design and execution.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this intriguing picture book, Caldecott Medalist Young (Seven Blind Mice) retells a Chinese folktale about the origins of the zodiac. The Jade Emperor of Heaven invites all the animals in the land to participate in a race through the thickest part of the forest and across the river at its widest point; the first 12 to finish will have a year in the Chinese calendar named after them. Young focuses on Cat and Rat, originally best friends. But when Cat and Rat convince Buffalo to let them ride on his back across the river, greedy Rat tricks them both and wins first place for himself. How the other animals cross the finish line and how Cat arrives too late to be included in the zodiac explains not only the character of each of the zodiac signs but cleverly suggests how the enmity between cats and rats began. Complex and well-told, the story will hold the reader's interest. The design is even more striking: panels of white type on black pages are juxtaposed with dark, scumbled charcoal-and-pastel illustrations. However, Young's characteristically abstract compositions and the murky and sometimes frightening representations of the animals may be difficult for children to decipher. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-In this version of the story behind the Chinese zodiac, the Emperor challenges all of the creatures to a race through forest and river, saying he will name each of the 12 years in the cycle after the winners. Rat and Cat, the best of friends, ask the water buffalo to carry them across the river. In sight of the finish line, Rat pushes Cat into the water and jumps off the buffalo's back, coming in first. ``And that is why, to this very day, Cat and Rat are enemies.'' Young tells the story in lively, spare prose, and includes a chart of the signs and their characteristics. His charcoal and pastel drawings on dark blue and buff rice paper are elegant and full of action. Yet because of the somber colors, the pictures are hard to read, especially from a distance. Setting white type on black background only adds to the gloom. Monica Chang's The Story of the Chinese Zodiac (Pan Asian, 1994), a bilingual import, illustrates the same story with paper sculptures that are brighter but more conventional, and without a chart connecting years to animals. Clara Yen's Why Rat Comes First (Childrens, 1991) tells a different version, and provides chart signs and years with brief explanations of the characteristics. Since 1996 will be the Year of the Rat, schools and libraries planning Chinese New Year celebrations can use Young's title, although the shadowed passion of his drawings forms an uneasy partnership with what is essentially a light trickster tale.-Margaret A. Chang, North Adams State College, MA

Product Details

Square Fish
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
8.36(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.13(d)
AD430L (what's this?)
Age Range:
3 - 5 Years

Meet the Author

Ed Young was born in China and spent his childhood in Shanghai. The illustrator of many books for children, he has received numerous awards, including a Caldecott Honor. Ed Young lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

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