Can't Please 'Em All! Substitute Groundhog by Kristen Remener
"I SEE MY SHADOW!" GROUNDHOG DECLARED.
HALF THE ANIMALS CHEERED. THE OTHER HALF GROANED.
Mama Squirrel is particularly displeased. Being stuck for six more weeks in a hole in a tree with her little nutters is making her nuts!
"I JUST CALL IT LIKE I SEE IT!" GROUNDHOG MUMBLED.
The restive early spring advocates are disgruntled by the message and berate the messenger. Poor Groundhog ducks back down into his den and lays low until spring finally appears in its own time.
At last everyone comes out to forage, Mama Squirrel still lamenting that berries six weeks earlier would have tasted better, while Hare lavishly praises Groundhog for giving her fur coat extra time to become even more luxurious and proffers a basket of berries to her benefactor.
THIS EXCHANGE DID NOT GO UNNOTICED.
Suddenly, Groundhog finds himself everybody's new best friend. Mama Squirrel invites her "old pal Groundhoggy" to sit with her and share some peanuts at the opening baseball game, with a hint that perhaps he can return the favor next February 2. Despite his protests that he can't control the weather, Groundhog finds a lot of his would-be friends also vying to grease his palms with a little payola for a promise of an early spring.
Coach Sparrow offers him a special perk, a position on the baseball team, to sweeten the deal for an early spring training next year, and Hare drops by with a pie in the way of a counter offer for fur-growing chill. Bear offers an obvious bribe for more sack time next spring, and soon even our virtuous hognosticator finds himself giving in to the inducements of his opinionated public with vague promises to both sides.
But he knows this popularity can't last. Spring will come when it comes no matter what. Either way, someone is going to be feel cheated. Groundhog spends a winter of discontent doing some serious thinking, with musings of "First to thine own self be true."
And on Groundhog's Day, Mother Nature doesn't make it any easier. It dawns chilly and--the whistlepig's worse nightmare--partly cloudy. Groundhog sighs as he pokes his head out of his hole.
"I'M SORRY, EVERYONE.
I CALL IT LIKE I SEE IT!" HE SAYS.
It's a victory for honest public servants, in Kristen Remener's Groundhog's Dilemma (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2015). Author Remener tells her tale well, laying out the temptations to please the public in a little parable of local politics for young readers, and artist Matt Faulkner uses his noted skills to make the self-serving motives of the characters comically evident in his clever illustrations. With a piquant little story for this admittedly minor "holiday" that broaches the subject of public honesty lightly but clearly, this is one of the best of this year's bunch for Groundhog's Day. Say the Kirkus reviewer, "Remenar's graceful prose and the subtlety of her message, pitched to older preschoolers and early-elementary students, are a good match. A sly and funny take on truth-telling and friendship."
For an absolute glut of February 2 tales, see my Groundhog Roundup here.