Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day and The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration - Thirty-Three

Happy Groundhog Day! For today's picture book I have a story about a groundhog who has a very unusual Groundhog Day.
Susan Blackaby
Illustrated by Carmen Segovia
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Sterling, 2011, 978-1-4027-4336-8
   It is the second of February, and Brownie the groundhog has come out of her burrow to see if she can see her shadow or not. As she stands on the snow, she looks down, and there, “stretched across the frosted field,” is her shadow. It looks as if there is going to be six more weeks of winter, and she is going to have to “Wait, wait, wait” for spring.
   Then, before she can do anything to save herself, a fox jumps on Brownie and he asks her to hold still because he wants to eat her for breakfast. Brownie is a very clever animal and she manages to put off the fox by telling him that it is too late for breakfast. He will have to wait for lunchtime.
   Brownie and the fox wander across the snow together. Brownie looks for signs of spring, while the fox tries to ignore his hungry stomach. Brownie knows full well that at lunchtime the fox is going to want to eat her. Somehow, she is going to have to find a way to save herself.
   In this wonderful picture book, we meet a groundhog who knows how to think on her feet, or rather on her paws. Children will laugh when they see what Brownie does to the poor fox, and how she turns a potential enemy into a friend.
   Paired with Carmen Segovia’s unique vintage looking illustrations, this story is a wonderful tale to read during cold February days when one is looking for signs of spring. 

For those of you who don't live in the U.S., here is some information about Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day is a holiday celebrated on February 2 in the United States and Canada. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, it will leave the burrow, signifying that winter will soon end. If on the other hand, it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly "see its shadow" and retreat back into its burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks.

Modern customs of the holiday involve celebrations where early morning festivals are held to watch the groundhog emerging from its burrow. In southeastern Pennsylvania, Groundhog Lodges (Grundsow Lodges) celebrate the holiday with fersommlinge, social events in which food is served, speeches are made, and one or more g'spiel (plays or skits) are performed for entertainment. The Pennsylvania German dialect is the only language spoken at the event, and those who speak English pay a penalty, usually in the form of a nickel, dime or quarter, per word spoken, put into a bowl in the center of the table.

The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in PunxsutawneyPennsylvania. Groundhog Day, already a widely recognized and popular tradition, received worldwide attention as a result of the 1993 film of the same name, Groundhog Day, which was set in Punxsutawney and featured Punxsutawney Phil.

The holiday, which began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, has its origins in ancient European weather lore, wherein a badger or sacred bear is the prognosticator as opposed to a groundhog. The holiday also bears some similarities to the medieval Catholic holiday of Candlemas. It also bears similarities to the Pagan festival of Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar, which is celebrated on February 1 and also involves weather prognostication

An early American reference to Groundhog Day can be found in a diary entry, dated February 5, 1841, of Berks County, Pennsylvania storekeeper James Morris:
Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.

For those of you who don't know what a groundhog is, they are large rodents belonging to the family of large ground squirrels known as marmots. They are also called woodchucks or land-beavers. They can weigh up to 9 pounds (4 kg)

Over the years I have reviewed several wonderful books about Groundhog Day. You can see these reviews on the TTLG Groundog Day Feature.

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