The Year of the Monkey: Tales from the Chinese Zodiac by Oliver Chin, illustrated by Kenji Ono
In the penultimate title of San Francisco indie press Immedium’s Tales from the Chinese Zodiac, founding publisher/author Oliver Chin presents the rollicking adventures of the Monkey King’s young son. As the offspring of “a legendary prankster,” Max – named for maximum fun? – is, of course, “‘a chimp off the old block’” full of energetic mischief, ready to “‘learn all the family tricks!’”
By the time Max starts school, listening quietly and following directions in class are not his best subjects. But recess and gym give him ample opportunity to excel, especially with his buddy Kai by his side. The two develop an interest – and aptitude – for Jianzi, or shuttlecock, a skillful game in which a feathered weight gets kicked around without the use of hands. While the Dragon and the Tiger impress everyone with their unparalleled prowess, Max has a declaration of his own: “‘I’m going to be the best Jianzi player.’” With buddy Kai in cahoots, the pair begin to prepare for the upcoming tourney …
Eleven titles into the 12-part series, Chin goes bilingual for the first time: While Chinese translations for the first 10 books have previously been available as free downloadable PDFs from the Immedium website, Monkey offers both English and Chinese on the page. Another first is Chin’s collaboration with illustrating partner, Kenji Ono, a seasoned storyboard artist for animated series and films. Ono’s experience in ‘moving pictures’ is easily recognizable here, as Max’s never-still energy can hardly be contained.
Max is doing what comes naturally … because those born in the Year of the Monkey are “playful, nimble, and persistent. But they can be impetuous and naughty, and sometimes show off.” Lucky for Max – not to mention his buddy Kai and his proud parents, too – “[t]hough they are fond of mischief, monkeys keep their eyes on the prize and are indispensable allies.” Can victory be far off?
新年快乐! Happy Lunar New Year … with a bit of Monkey business and more!