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San Francisco Chronicle, Thursday, February 15, 2007

Entertainment: 96 Hours: SPIN ON TRADITION

'The Year of the Pig' - Children's book offers a fresh story based on Chinese astrology

by Paul Kilduff

Flip on the TV now and it's hard to ignore the various parades that will celebrate the beginning of the Chinese New Year this Sunday. And you may even know that 2007 is the Year of the Pig, but what exactly does this mean? A book by the Bay Area's Oliver Chin has the answer.

"The Year of the Pig" tells the story of Patty, a pig who is criticized for her piggish behavior. In the end, though, her devil-may-care, impulsive side wins the day as she sneaks out of her pen to find Farmer Wu's valuable jade ring in the compost heap -- a job thought better left to last year's "year of" animal, the dog.

The second in a series that will tell the stories of all 12 animals that make up the Chinese zodiac (the first was last year's "The Year of the Dog"), at the end of the story a page describes the personality traits that people born in the year of the pig all supposedly possess, including warmth, sincerity, sensitivity and stubbornness.

However, Chin doesn't want us to take the animal's attributes to heart. "I'm not proselytizing this belief system -- I'm putting a wrapper on it," he says.

The writer, who has scheduled several readings this weekend, plans to kick off his presentation by explaining the tradition of the Chinese zodiac. Afterward, he'll distribute images from the book for kids to color.

The book was published through Chin's Immedium publishing house in San Francisco. Its graphics were done digitally by Alabama artist Jeremiah Alcorn and are reminiscent of the work of Chuck Jones, the animator behind such Warner Bros. cartoon characters as Bugs Bunny. They look like animation stills.

A third-generation Chinese American, Chin drew cartoons for Harvard's school paper, the Crimson, while a student, but didn't pursue a career in the feast-or-famine world of cartooning after graduating in 1991. Instead he took a sensible job in sales and marketing with Simon & Schuster in New York.

After moving to San Francisco for similar work in 1994, Chin, who for a time moonlighted as a cartoonist for Asian Week, decided to start Immedium. "Being creative and coming up with ideas was much more important to me than selling a widget," says Chin. Inspired by the birth of his son that year, Chin wrote Immedium's first release, "Wonderbaby," a book designed to help children learn the alphabet. Since then his company has put out three other children's books and two for adults, including last summer's Burning Man photography book "Desert to Dream."

With his new series, Chin wants to bring the ancient stories of the Chinese zodiac to life in a modern context. Instead of rehashing an old folktale, "we wanted to create something totally original -- something you'd want to read every day of the year. I'm taking this 5,000-year-old tradition and making it come alive for people of the 21st century. All these animals, just like people, have a particular character. It mirrors the human experience."

About Immedium

Immedium, Inc. inspires a world of imagination, and creates entertaining books that have multi-dimensional appeal. Based in San Francisco, CA, Immedium sits on the Pacific Rim, a vibrant intersection for crossover cultural trends from Asia and America. Embracing an increasingly diverse and "multimedia" world, Immedium publishes titles ranging from eye-catching children's books and contemporary non-fiction to commentaries on art and popular culture. Visit us at www.immedium.com.