This book has two stories: the Golden and Silver Axes and Painting a Snake with Feet.
In the Golden and Silver Axes, a little boy accidentally drops his axe into a river. Because this was his only means of livelihood, he sits down and cries. Taking pity on him, a white-beared old man appears with a golden axe. "Was this what you had lost?", the old man asked, but the boy says it is not, and returns the same answer when a silver axe is brought to the surface. Only when his own tool is produced does he claim it. Impressed by his honesty, the god allows him to keep all three.
Hearing of the boy's good fortune, an envious neighbor throws his own axe into the river and wails for its return. When the god appears and offers him a golden axe, the man greedily claims it but is denied both that and the return of his own axe.
Painting a Snake with Feet literally means drawing a snake and adding feet to it. The idiom refers to spoiling things by doing something unnecessary.
In this story, after offering sacrifices to his ancestors, a man in the State of Chu granted a goblet of letf-over wine to his attendants, who, however, after talking among themselves decided that the wine would not be enough for all, though more than enough for one. And that it would be better for every one of them to draw a snake on the ground so that whosoever fineshed first might drink the wine.
Then one of them came out first and complacently took up the goblet, ready to drink. Holding it in his left hand, he said,"Oh, there's still time for me to supply the snake with feet." So saying,he used the other hand to do it, but before he could finish the feet another man completed his snake. He immediately seized the vessel and cried,"A snake is born without feet. How can you give it them?" With that, he gulped down the wine, and the one doing the feet ended up losing what should have belonged to him.
The book comes with Chinese characters and the Pinyin (phonetic transcriptions), and includes a VCD that children can enjoy watching on TV or computer. The VCD narrates most poems in this book in clear Mandarin Chinese, and is accompanied with animated cartoons. Please see Q & A about VCD for more details.
有个贫苦的少年，打柴路过一条河，不小心把斧头掉进了河里，于是悲伤地在河边哭。一位路过的老爷爷钻进水里先后捞出一把金斧头和一把银斧头，少年摇摇头说不是我的，老爷爷最后捞出那把铁斧头，少年说："就是这把就是这把!" 神仙说：“你很诚实，这另外两把斧头也送给你吧!”说完就不见了。于是, 少年拿着三把斧头回家去。