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THE GREAT RACE. A new book by Charles Huang and Stacey Hirata ó The Great Race: How the Chinese Zodiac Came to Be ó tells the story of the origin of the lunar zodiac. The book, which features illustrations by Jerome Lu, presents a charming tale of how the zodiac was created that readers young and old can enjoy.

From The Asian Reporter, V25, #04 (February 16, 2015), page 16.

Origin of the lunar zodiac explained in The Great Race

The Great Race: How the Chinese Zodiac Came to Be

By Charles Huang and Stacey Hirata

Illustrations by Jerome Lu

Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2015

Hardcover, 24 pages, $17.95

By Kate Hubbard

The Asian Reporter

Anew lunar year is nearing. Have you ever wondered about the origin of the lunar zodiac? Do you know how the animals and the order were chosen? Although the exact source is shrouded in antiquity, many legends, myths, and popular stories have sought to answer the questions.

Thereís a new book that seeks to address the long-standing mystery. It was published last month and is called The Great Race: How the Chinese Zodiac Came to Be. The book is aimed at children, but it presents a charming version of how the zodiac was created that all readers can learn from and appreciate.

In this version of the story, which is written by Charles Huang and Stacey Hirata with illustrations created by Jerome Lu, the Jade Emperor invites his favorite animals to his birthday celebration. As part of the festivities, he organizes a competition in which the animals race across a river to receive a heavenly reward and become one of the Emperorís "Jade Stars."

The order in which the animals arrive, and the reasons for that, are the fun twists in the tale. Based on the animals, one might expect different results. However, the character traits of each animal come into play and change the anticipated outcome. As a parable, itís both a great explanation of the zodiac cycle and a clever look at different personalities.

The book provides a fun way to introduce children of all ages to a version of a folktale thatís been around for a very long time. Itís also an effective way to start a conversation about the good and bad aspects of our personal characteristics, and how they can work for or against us.

Whether readers choose to believe the tale itself, which has been passed down in different forms for generations, itís great to see a variation of the story passed on to a new generation. And it is certainly a modern version ó the saturated colors and vivid cartoon style are very much 21st century.

Stories are a simple way to introduce complicated concepts to children (and adults, too). The zodiac is historically and socially a fascinating construct, remarkable for its longevity and accessibility. A handy chart in the back of the book lists the years attributed to each animal, so readers can instantly find out their sign and learn about individual traits.

The Great Race provides a good jumping-off point and inspiration for readers to explore further on their own. The book, which is dedicated to Huangís mother, wife, and daughters, and Hirataís husband and children, is a wonderful introduction to the Lunar New Year.

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