The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac

16th February 2007 at 00:00
The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac. By Dawn Casey. Illustrated by Anne Wilson. Barefoot Books. pound;10.99., Seven-plus

Chasing the Sun: Stories from Africa. Edited by Veronique Tadjo. AC Black. pound;6.99. Eight-plus

A Telling Time. Irene N Watts. Illustrated by Kathryn E Shoemaker. Tradewind Books. pound;4.95. Nine-plus

Tom Deveson chooses tales rooted in the past and positive help for the present

These stories have deep roots in the past and can still nourish the imaginations of children in the present. The 12 creatures who make up the Chinese zodiac - the Hare, the Ox, the Dragon, the Tiger and the others - all race across a wide river.

The Emperor fixes the calendar in the order in which they finish, but the 13th animal - the dripping cat - does not make it. Charming colour pictures match the simple eloquence of the text. Enjoy this book next week for Chinese New Year.

Writers of world renown such as Chinua Achebe and Naguib Mahfouz rub shoulders with relative unknowns in Veronique Tadjo's inclusive 140-page anthology.

Magic drums and talking animals take their place beside tales of daily life in market and school. Irene Watts retells the story of the Jewish festival of Purim, taken from the biblical Book of Esther.

Her version acquires a powerful extra dimension by being framed within events in Nazi-occupied Vienna. An ancient genocidal plot is echoed by a modern policy of extermination. The beautiful pictures of star-strewn skies and snow-covered streets match this thought provoking blend of old and new.

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