Images from Janell Cannon's
Reviews: (by author)
Young, Ed. Cat and Rat: The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995. $7.95.
In Cat and Rat, Young reveals why cats and rats are enemies and how the Chinese zodiac came to be. According to legend, the Emperor hosted a race of all the animals in which the first twelve to cross the finish line would have a year named in honor of them. In the beginning, cat and rat were friends. However, rat got greedy and tricked his way to first place leaving behind cat, who came in thirteenth place. Cat has never been able to forgive rat for losing his place and therefore, losing a place in the Chinese zodiac.
A big part of the Chinese culture is the zodiac, a twelve-year cycle that is based on the lunar calendar. Chinese people do not place a huge emphasis on birthdays, as do their American counterparts. Each person is automatically one year old upon birth, which differs from American custom. Your birth year tells you which animal you are. Each animal possesses certain characteristics and traits. The Chinese zodiac and its animals are evident in all things Chinese as they are usually emblazoned in Chinese restaurants and stores, etc.
Young's version of this legend is appropriate for young and emerging readers. The text is easy to read and understand and uses controlled vocabulary. The illustrations are typical of Young. Done in an impressionistic style with chalk, pencils, and pastels, the pictures are dynamic and reminiscent of traditional Asian art. Most of the illustrations are done in a dark background, which makes it hard to see the details. However, the setting does take place in the early morning hours with storms a-brewing and in dense jungles. Young clearly is able to set the mood in his illustrations. This is a great story. Very clever.
Recommended by Virginia Loh.