Mimi and Shu in I'll Race You!

Mimi and Shu in I'll Race You! illus. by Melissa van der Paardt. 40p. S. & S./Atheneum. Dec. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481423311. LC 2015009340.
PreS-Gr 2—Mimi the Kitten and Shu the Mouse are best friends. They join the emperor's big race in hopes of winning glory and cupcakes. Shu has plans for how to defeat each of his adversaries, while Mimi cares only about the cupcakes. When the two friends are nearing the finish line, however, both Mimi and Shu abandon their alliance and Shu ends up pushing Mimi into the river. He feels guilty for his actions and apologizes by giving Mimi his cupcake prize. This curious tale is actually a reimagining of the creation of the Chinese Zodiac, although that does not become evident until the final pages. The setup for the race is awkward, and the story feels strained throughout. The cartoon art is cute and colorful, although it is not immediately clear that Mimi is supposed to be a cat and not a raccoon. The story's ending, when the animals become the symbols of the Chinese Zodiac, seems contrived, and overall the moral disappoints.
VERDICT In trying to be a friendship story with a moral as well as a folksy reimagining, the story ends up missing the mark on all counts.

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