Ever since my 2011-born son was given a copy of The Tale of Rhonda Rabbit by a kind auntie, I’ve been a lover of Sarah Brennan and Harry Harrison’s richly illustrated ‘Chinese Zodiac’ kids series. So I was very excited to get my hands on a copy of the newest book to join the fold for the new lunar year – Sybil Snake.
Many of the books in the series are loosely based on ancient Chinese folk tales, with others inspired by more recent events, such as the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, all spun into charming rhyming yarns with a good dash of humour. Sybil is no exception, focusing on a wily enchantress in serpent form who is the Emperor of China’s favourite pet. Discovered stealing from him, Sybil is banished from his kingdom before eventually returning – now transformed into a beguiling maiden – and duping the Emperor’s son into marrying her. When her husband and the heir to the throne vanish, how much does the Empress really know about their disappearance?
I absolutely loved this book, and although my toddler is obviously too young to fully appreciate the story, the rhythmic rhymes and gorgeously intricate and colourful illustrations really captured his attention, making ‘Sssnakie’ a new bedtime favourite in our house. Older children will love the twists in this clever mystery tale, and adults will definitely appreciate the subtle humour and historic detail.
The series features books on the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon and Panda (ok, not strictly a zodiac animal, but that’s all explained in the book!), and I’m already looking forward to the next instalment that I hope will be coming up to mark the year of the Horse!
Sybil Snake was kindly provided to us for review courtesy of Bookazine. For more in the series, plus plenty more great kids’ books, check out the website.