Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Year of the Rooster: Tales from the Chinese Zodiac by Oliver Chin, illustrated by Juan Calle

This year, Chinese New Year, also called the Spring Festival and Lunar New Year, begins today, January 28, 2017 and ends on February 11th with the Lantern Festival. This year, it is the Year of the Rooster, the 10th sign in the Chinese zodiac, and so, it is time for a new tale from the Chinese Zodiac by Oliver Chin.

It's a new year and the egg Mama has been keeping warm and safe has finally started to crack. Sure enough, a new rooster is born and his name is Ray. When young Ying arrives to help clean the coop, she and Ray become instant friends, playing in the yard.

One night, Papa wakes Ray up and takes him to his job - waking the town up with his loud, confident "Cock-a-doodle-doo." It is an important job that Ray will one day inherit. But, for now, Ray "Cock-a-doodle-do" is just too weak. On their way home that morning, Papa and Ray meet a pig who claims he has just seen the legendary phoenix and has a feather to prove it. Back home, Ying and Ray are fascinated with the gleaming feather and decide they want to see the phoenix, as well.

Ying and Ray immediately run in a rat, who directs them to a farmers market for the latest news. If you look at the zodiac below, you will easily be able to predict the next animal Ying and Ray meet, and each one after that. As they encounter each animal, they get closer and closer to finding the phoenix, until finally a monkey points to a high mountain and tells them that what they seek lies up there. That night, the two friends climb up the mountain, stopping often and admiring the view, until finally reaching the top. There, Ray gave his first bold "Cock-a-doodle-doo." The phoenix, with blazing eyes and shimmering colorful feathers, tells Ray "You've displayed a fiery spirit and have a bright future ahead."

Ray returns home to the roost with Ying, excited to tell his parents about their adventure on this once in a lifetime trip, and about the nine animals he met along the way, and how he has learned to always respect his place in the pecking order of life. This turns out to be a very Happy Year of the Rooster.

Oliver Chin has a real knack for retelling the ancient Chinese zodiac stories for today's modern reader, and making them fun, energetic and understandable to anyone not already familiar with the tales, as well as those who are. And once again, the tales are totally supported by artist Juan Calle's dynamic, colorful illustrations.

One of the nice things about Chin's zodiac tales is that they are all written in English and Chinese using simplified characters. When my Kiddo visited this month, she read the story in Chinese aloud to me and we both enjoyed it very much (even though I only understood a few words). But it is nice to know that the tales match in both languages.

This is Oliver Chin's 12th book retelling tales from the Chinese Zodiac, even though The Year of the Rooster is the 10th animal on the zodiac. My young readers found this a little confusing, so we printed out the zodiac chart below to keep track of the animals that Ying and Ray meet, and to understand the "pecking order" better, with the Rat being the first sign:
Reading The Year of the Rooster made me curious to know how the dates of the Spring Festival determined. I knew it was based on the lunar calendar, but what determines the exact fifteen days. Turns out to be pretty simple: the first day of the Lunar New Year begins with the new moon that falls between January 21st and February 20th and ends on the full moon 15 days later.
Were you born in a year of the rooster? People born in the year of the rooster are independent, bright, and ambitious. But, alas, they are also selfish, narrow-minded, and critical.

The Year of the Rooster is recommended for readers age 4+
This book was provided to me by the publisher, Immedium

Good Luck, Good Health, Good Cheer and Pass a Happy New Year

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