Book review: ‘The Year of the Dog’ by Oliver Chin

“The Year of the Dog” by Oliver Chin, illustrated by Miah Alcorn. (Image courtesy of Immedium.)

Oliver Chin’s “The Year of the Dog” is an engaging tale, bringing the Chinese zodiac to life with interesting stories and vivid illustrations. Chin began his “Tales from the Chinese Zodiac” over a decade ago with the loyal dog, the 11th zodiac animal. The 2018 edition adds a Chinese translation in simplified characters.

The story begins with Daniel, a puppy born on New Year’s day. Lin, a girl who lives next door, visits Daniel and becomes fast friends with him. Daniel’s Papa tells him to always look after Lin and to be on the watch for strangers at all times.

Papa taught Daniel to bark whenever he saw dangerous animals such as a phoenix, dragon or tiger, because dogs watch out for humans. However, little Daniel was not able to distinguish between animals and embarrassed himself with several gaffes.

One day Lin and Daniel’s families had a picnic. After lunch, Lin wandered off by herself. Daniel volunteered to fetch Lin and dashed off to catch her scent. All of a sudden, a beast with bright orange stripes, long whiskers and a furry tail appeared. The fearsome tiger terrified Lin and Daniel. However, Daniel raced to Lin’s side and barked fiercely. His barking attracted Lin’s parents and Daniel’s family to rush over. It got too noisy for the tiger, which left. Lin kissed Daniel and thanked for his bravery in saving her.

The story is easy to understand for children, with lively illustrations by Miah Alcorn. Chin’s English text is accompanied by a Chinese translation, which is not overly literal. Children can learn both languages while reading the story, fostering early exposure to language and culture.

The story tells us dogs are always loyal and faithful to their family, just like people born in the Year of Dog. While these people can be blunt and stubborn, they are reliable and trustworthy. The story of the Chinese zodiac explains Chinese culture in a simple and accessible way. “The Year of the Dog” is perfect for bilingual or multicultural children, making learning fun.

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