Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Picture Book: Groundhog Weather School by Joan Holub

A hibernating rabbit watches the Groundhog Day forecast from his cozy bed.  The reporting groundhog announces that he did not see his shadow, so spring is here.  Enthusiastically, Rabbit puts on his summer clothes and goes outside—only to find it frigid and snowy!  Rabbit writes a letter to the Weather Groundhog requesting he enlist more groundhogs to help him predict the weather more accurately throughout North America.  As a result, Weather Groundhog puts an ad in the newspaper in search of weather forecasters for his Groundhog Weather School.  After gathering up numerous volunteers who meet his criteria, the class assembles.  Together, they share their knowledge of GeHOGraphy (facts about groundhogs), reports on famous furry Hognosticators (famous ground hogs), nature’s weather predictors, and significant weather scientists.  The students also learn how to build a burrow and how to put on a play about the reasons for the seasons.  Everything cumulates with the BIG test and graduation day.   On Groundhog Day the following year, all the students report their results: winter for six more weeks!  The rabbit goes outside, ready to sled.  Instead, there is spring weather.   He realizes that predicting the weather is “really, really hard.”  

What makes Groundhog Weather School (ages 5-10) so amazing is the format.  There is the aspect of the story within the story.  Rabbit’s quest to plan for the seasonal changes and weather is what commences and concludes the story.  Then in the middle, the Weather Groundhog trains young groundhogs as weather forecasters which is interactive and creative.  It begins with a letter from Rabbit that is on a pile of other letters.  Next, is the Weather Groundhog’s ad with its quiz asking questions, such as:  Are you a mammal?  Are you furry?  Are you an herbivore?  And, do you hibernate.  Different animals are seen responding to the ad (an excellent opportunity to discuss the differences in various mammals and even what characteristics make an animal a mammal).  Once the students who “qualify” are assembled, they gather to recite their “Pledge of Hog-Allegiance (shown pinned to a cork board).  Various groundhogs share their knowledge in concise dialogue boxes.  For their reports, there are typed short vignettes with pictures about famous groundhogs.  Interspersed are interactions within the school like lunch time and a production on the reason for the season (another great teaching opportunity).  The BIG test is shown with multiple choice options for children to respond to.  There are just so many great elements that you have to see it to appreciate it. 

Groundhog Weather School offers many opportunities in history and science for cross-the-curriculum review or learning.  The text is informative but not heavy.  The pictures are vivid and action-oriented.  There are some subtle elements of humor (a skunk sneaks in as a groundhog).  After reading several selections on the holiday, I found Groundhog Weather School the best of them.  I would highly recommend this book for libraries and teachers (great gift idea for parents of youngsters for the teacher).   Some parents may also want to purchase it, but since Groundhog’s Day is only once a year, checking it out at the library annually may be enough.  

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