After creating a calendar with a 12-year cycle, the Jade Emperor decides he needs twelve animals to represent each of the years. Kimmel's (Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins) languid retelling focuses on two animals, Rooster--who sports a glorious pair of antlers--and Dragon, and their preoccupation with their appearance. Centipede, on behalf of Dragon, asks Rooster to lend his antlers to Dragon, who thinks that they will detract attention away from his bald spot. Although Rooster willingly gives them up, he then bemoans the fact that the emperor chooses Dragon fifth among the 12 finalists, while Rooster is chosen 10th. But the contest itself is anticlimactic. The emperor summons the creatures to the palace and ""look[s] at all the animals. Finally he announce[s] his choices,"" seemingly vindicating the characters' obsession with their appearances. As the legend goes, this tale explains why roosters today gobble up centipedes and begin each day berating Dragon, the sun. Xuan's (Ten Suns: A Chinese Legend, with Kimmel) intricate, silhouetted cut-paper illustrations--offset by clear, vibrant colors--create the impression of stained glass, but at times the cluttered compositions detract from the characters themselves. And the subtle visual connection between Dragon and the sun, at the conclusion, may be lost on some readers. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/30/1999 Release date: 09/01/1999 Genre: Children's
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