The Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

Susan Whitfield, Author, Philippa-Alys Browne, Illustrator
Susan Whitfield, Author, Philippa-Alys Browne, Illustrator Crocodile Books $16 (40p) ISBN 978-1-56656-236-2
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
This vibrantly illustrated though rather dull account tells how it came to be that in China years are designated by animals. ""Buddha decided to give every year a name so it would be easy to tell one year from another,"" but before he can arrive at suitable names, he falls ill and invites the animals of China to keep him company. As three apsaras (""flying women with magical powers"") summon 13 creatures, Whitfield presents a fairly tedious rundown of the habitat, habits and personalities of each. And, of course, Cat, whom Rat fails to waken, never makes it to Buddha and therefore has no year in his name (hence their age-old antagonism). Decidedly more animated than the text are Browne's (A Gaggle of Geese) bold watercolors, an inventive hybrid of old Chinese silk paintings and woodcuts. Although the loud reds and golds that dominate the artist's stylized images may, in several renderings of Tiger and Dragon, be frightening to those on the younger edge of the targeted audience, the garnet red, emerald green and sapphire blue combined with foreshortened perspectives create a sense of movement in the pictures. Brief descriptions of traits found under each animal's zodiacal sign round out the volume. Ages 4-10. (Jan.)
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