Yet another book taking on the story behind the Chinese Zodiac; there have been at least eight since 1991, among them Clara Yen's Why Rat Comes First (1991), Demi's The Dragon's Tale and Other Animal Fables of the Chinese Zodiac (1996, not reviewed) and Ed Young's Cat and Rat (1995). And once again, Rat manages to arrive ahead of the others at Buddha's feet, and the first year of the cycle is named accordingly. Cat, on the other hand, is left behind, thus prompting the age-old feud between rats and cats. Curiously, Whitfield opts for more of a series of explanations than a story, and fails to generate much excitement.
Chatty, caption-like blurbs accompany the animal figures, taking up several pages without developing the action. Explosions of color result in pages that are predominantly red and yellow, reminiscent of Chinese fireworks. A history of the development of the Chinese zodiac follows the story, as does an interpretation of the attributes of each animal's qualities.