Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we dig into the things badgering our readers – over and over – and suggest a few books that might help Phil the time.
February 2 is Groundhog Day, the holiday observed in the United States and Canada that centers the intersection of rodents, sunlight and climate prediction. Based on a Pennsylvania Dutch superstition, legend has it that if a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day and sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den, and winter will continue for six weeks. If it does not see its shadow because the sky is cloudy, spring should arrive early. Groundhog Day is also the name of a 1993 feature film by Harold Ramis starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell in which a self-obsessed weatherman repeats the same day over and over in a seemingly endless time loop.
So today, in honor of Groundhog Day, we’re recommending two types of books. For the youngest readers, we’ve got fistfuls of books about the furry creatures and the holiday they are named after. And since groundhogs so rarely feature in YA romance or thrillers or even fantasy novels, we’re also recommending books that feature time loops, with characters repeating certain days or time periods over and over. Rise and shine, readers, if you want books about Groundhog Day or like Groundhog Day, we’ve got you, babe.
If young readers want the straight scoop on the holiday, they can’t do better than Groundhog Day! by Gail Gibbons. Originally released in 2007, and re-released in 2022 in a new and updated edition, the nonfiction picture book describes the tradition, its particular resonance in the Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney, as well as a profusion of groundhog animal facts, to boot.
Instead of the weather, what if Groundhog Day was about the importance of friendship? Gregory’s Shadow by Don Freeman (yes, Corduroy Don Freeman) answers that theoretical question. Gregory, who is a groundhog (as you may have guessed) is separated from his best friend Shadow. Not only does this leave poor Gregory sad and lonely, but their separation couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Tomorrow is Groundhog Day!
Similar in plot, but different in tone is Groundhog’s Runaway Shadow by David Biedrzycki. Phil (also a groundhog) and his shadow are, again, inseparable friends. But instead of separating against their wills, Phil and his shadow friend grow apart and even have a big argument, after which Shadow leaves to see the world. Will Phil and Shadow reunite? More than the length of winter hangs in the balance!
For those who are wistful that February 2 means we’re moving further and further from the winter holidays, there’s The Night Before Groundhog Day by Natasha Wing and Amy Wummer. A rhyming story told in the style of Clement C. Moore’s famous Christmas poem, this ode to Groundhog Day Eve is the perfect book to lull young readers to sleep on February 1.
Groundhog Gets It Wrong by Jess Townes and Nicole Miles calls into question the power of groundhog prediction. In this funny book, Groundhog is shocked and a bit ashamed when he discovers that he doesn’t have innate weather-predicting gifts, and his faulty prediction ruins the spring carnival. First he tries fixing the mistake by shoveling up the snow and hosing it away, but that only causes more problems! All that is left for Groundhog to do to make things right is learn a few things about meteorology.
A book that could help Groundhog with that is Groundhog Weather School by Joan Holub and Kristin Sorra. The book, which promises “Fun Facts About Weather and Groundhogs,” features a cast of groundhog students who learn all about the weather – and why we have different seasons – and whether some plants and animals can help predict the weather.
Groundhog gets a little frustrated that interest in him lasts but one day a year in Groundhog Gets a Say by Pamela C. Swallow and Denise Bankus, and he’s not afraid to tell people about it! Groundhog and some of his die-hard forest creature fans tells readers all about his wonderful qualities in this book, from how loud he can whistle, to how fast he cannot run, to how many reasons he has to use his teeth. This is a little ground squirrel with a big personality who is eager to share tons of groundhog animal facts.
What if a groundhog had a friend who wasn’t its shadow? And if the book had nothing to do with predicting the seasons? A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins and Chris Appelhans is a tongue-twister-filled story about an unlikely friendship between two animals with similar names. And it’s as much fun to read out loud as it is to look at.
CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE
Zoe inadvertently downloads a magical app that allows her to re-do moments of her life in Jen Calonita’s novel The Retake, which shares a few commonalities with Groundhog Day. Given Zoe and her best friend Laura have been drifting apart for months, Zoe goes back to revisit middle-school moments with Laura – sleepovers and field trips and school projects – to see if she can diagnose the demise of their friendship and repair the rift.
Finn and the Time-Traveling Pajamas by Michael Buckley may veer more into intergalactic territory than either The Retake or Groundhog Day, but it does involve pajamas with time travelling powers. (And since Groundhog Day always starts in bed, can we say it does not?). he pajamas come into play when an older version of Finn tells (younger) Finn and his friends that he needs their help to win battles in their near future that he lost decades ago. So, though the scale and scope may be different, it’s very much a story about do-overs in life.
Perhaps a better analog for Again, Again by E. Lockhart is Sliding Doors, but who can resist the idea of suggesting a book that’s Groundhog Day if it were written by the author of We Were Liars? Adelaide is a girl devastated by heartbreak and grief and a family affected by addiction. But, through the magic of fiction, she is able to re-live her life, making different choices and watching the same events play out in multiple parallel worlds. (This is actually Lockhart’s second book on this Groundhog Day list, if you know your nom-de-plumes!)
Nephele makes her own Groundhog Day happen in Sarah Lariveire’s Time Travel for Love and Profit, in which – after a disastrous freshman year of high school – she invents a time-travel app to try again. (Is this part of the Extended Retake Universe?) However, something goes very wrong. She creates a time loop, and is stuck reliving her ninth grade year over and over – for ten years – while the rest of the world goes on! Her former classmates grow up, get jobs and she gets stuck as a fourteen-year-old forever. (Or does she?)
Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl is like a horror-movie version of Groundhog Day (though not quite a Happy Death Day). After narrowly escaping a car accident on the stormy night of a one-year high school reunion, five friends find themselves in a rented mansion where a mysterious man makes a visit. He tells them the friends must unanimously decide which of the five of them will die that evening. Then the night repeats: all five live that same night again – and again. And the only way out, as the mysterious stranger reminds them, is for them to unanimously vote on who from their group shall die. (Consider us spooked!)