The Big Rock: A Tale of Wisdom Told in English and Chinese

SCPG. Jan. 2022. 40p. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781938368646.
PreS-K–When a grandfather chooses to plant a vegetable garden around a large rock, the “big ugly” rock becomes the bane of his family’s existence. The family continually trips over it while tending the garden. They all see it as an absolutely impossible obstacle—until two grandsons decide to simply remove it. The gentle, nuanced illustrations are the highlight here: The photorealistic rock contrasts with the hand-drawn style of the figures and spare backgrounds. An eye-catching use of perspective shows both the surface and underground parts of the rock, with the latter skillfully depicted in broad strokes reminiscent of traditional Chinese brush painting. The text, presented in both English and Chinese, carries the tone of a parable or fable. Indeed, the parable of “The Blind Men and the Elephant” is included at the end of the book, implying that this tale is meant to convey a similar message about perspective. The story of the big ugly rock emphasizes the value of different viewpoints and encourages collaboration to solve a problem, but the conclusion is somewhat ambiguous. The family is able to remove the rock simply by deciding to do so, which leaves the reader to wonder: Was the rock really so bad? It was just sitting there, and it wasn’t very ugly at all.
VERDICT Purchase where Chinese-English bilingual materials for children are in demand.

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