cover image Dragon's Tale

Dragon's Tale

Demi. Henry Holt & Company, $19.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-3446-2

In this striking volume, Demi (The Empty Pot; The Firebird) introduces each of the Chinese zodiac's 12 animal symbols by retelling the fables associated with them. Her writing is succinct and witty, and the morals less familiar than Aesop's (""The more you know, the more you know there is to know""). Fittingly, the circle is the central design element here: the text of each brief entry is set within a ring filled with thematically linked images; circular illustrations on facing pages playfully-and very cleverly-interpret the narrative. Sophisticated yet accessible to youngsters, Demi's art displays a pleasing symmetry and an intriguingly varied scale, effectively balancing minute details and larger, more encompassing symbols. Adding to the book's visual allure is the copyright page's list of traditional ingredients the artist used in making her paints for this project, among them the sap of the rattan plant and pulverized oyster shells. Kids will also be interested to learn that Demi painted with a single mouse whisker for ""extremely delicate work."" Ages 4-7. (Oct.)