The Emperor declares the years need names and so the Great Race is declared to find the 12 Zodiac symbols. Cat and rat strike a deal but will it go to plan?
Title: The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac
Author: Christopher Corr
Illustrator: Christopher Corr
ISBN: 9781786030658 Language: English
Themes: traditional tale/story, China, zodiac
What’s it about?
Ever wondered why cats chase rats? This is a traditional retelling of the story of how the 12 zodiacs were chosen to represent the 12 year cycle. The story follows the chronological journey of each of the animals that are vying for the honour of being named a zodiac and explains their characteristics such as being kind, clever, etc.
This retelling is done very well. I rather liked that not every page had a full illustration – some having several smaller ones instead. This is a succinct story – it gets straight to the story and to the point – tying the beginning to the end.
The illustrations may not suit some older grades in primary school due to the simplicity and abstract nature at times.
Strangely enough with all the reading I have done I haven’t actually looked at the story behind the 12 Zodiacs before. This is an intriguing tale of how a competition is made by the Emperor that the animals that reach him first will have the honour of being of of the 12 years (which didn’t have names). The cat asks the rat to wake him in the morning but he doesn’t and becomes the first to reach the Emperor. The story continues to show how each animal journeys to the Emperor and then the cat realising he has oversleep and missed out.
In some ways I see this as a cautionary tale as much as a traditional story. The cat was relying on the rat to help him achieve his goal – rather than putting in the effort to get up himself to make the trip – there’s almost a feel of the Tortoise and the Hare to it which in my opinion would make a good companion story to this one if used at the beginning of a school year.
This book would work well with the lower primary grades. It could be used to introduce the Chinese New Year and explain why they have the 12 years names after animals. From this other activities could be completed on each animal and students could have a go writing the associated Chinese characters for each animal.
Special thanks to Quarto Publishing Group (Lincoln Children’s Books) and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of the book.