The Great Race
Written and illustrated by Christopher Corr
Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (QUarto)
Publication date: 4th January 2018
Age range: 3+
Summary (from Goodreads):
Celebrate Chinese New Year and learn how every animal earned its place in the Chinese zodiac by taking part in the Great Race! Discover who will come first to win the ultimate prize, and find out why Cat will never forgive his friend Rat in this ancient folk tale that has been passed from generation to generation.
Praise for Deep in the Woods, the previous title from Christopher Corr:
‘… the book looks like a delectable candy box… There is a lesson here — about friendship, and sharing — but the book never feels plodding or pedantic… Which may be why the lesson just goes down like the truth.’
I had to request this book straightaway when I saw it on Netgalley – firstly because I lived in China for 4 years and really enjoyed being immersed in the culture and secondly because I think it is important to teach our children about festivals around the world. Greater understanding could lead them to travel and explore more of the world, learn languages or could simply lead to greater understanding and empathy as they develop the understanding that we are all different, yet those differences are fascinating and a positive rather than a negative barrier.
This story retells the story of how the order of the Chinese zodiac was decided and was then used throughout history as a way to tell the years and, in the past, even the hours of each day. I have always loved this story, and felt especially sorry for the poor cat who gets left out. In various versions of the story he is tricked into being left out but in this version the mouse/rat simply fails to wake him up, hence the reason that the cat and the mouse have been mortal enemies ever since.
This story is very well-known all over Asia, but has been re-imagined and re-created in lots of different stories over the years. For example, the popular Japanese manga series Fruits Basket, re-imagines each animal in the zodiac into a member of a family who are cursed to turn into that animal when embraced by a member of the opposite gender. Hijinks and heartbreak ensue!
This story is a worthy addition to any collection of stories promoting traditional tales form other countries and cultures and is the perfect read-aloud for a primary class in the lead-up to Chinese New Year. As today is Chinese New Year’s Eve, it would be a great read for today!
What I liked: Vibrant, detailed illustrations that almost seem to burst from the page; the details will keep children coming back for more. I also think that a greater selection of books telling stories from other countries and cultures is always good. I can’t wait to get my hands on a hard copy of this because I think that the illustrations will be even more impressive in that format.
Even better if: It would have been nice to have a bit of information in the back of the book about the characteristics associated with each zodiac animal (whether you believe it or not, there are certain years in China where lots of children are born e.g. dragon and nobody ever wants to have a girl in the Horse years). The cultural context of how the Chinese New Year is celebrated, etc would have been a nice touch too.
How you could use it in your classroom: I would use it around Chinese New Year to introduce the different animals of each year, or just when introducing stories from other cultures. This is definitely a book I will be adding to my classroom library.
(Thank you to Netgalley and Frances Lincoln Children’s Books for my e-ARC)
Have you read this book?
Or any other books about Chinese New Year?
Which animal of the Chinese zodiac are you?