Poetry Monday: “Sir Ned” by Laura Sassi

Is this national marmot month or something? Because I’ve got marmots coming out of my ears! First there was this post about a certain world traveling groundhog, and now today I’ve got woodchucks in the shed. Did you know that groundhogs and woodchucks are the same thing? I didn’t, but thanks to the marmot immersion course I’ve had this month, I do now! I also learned these tidbits:

  • Marmots use a lookout to watch for predators.
  • This lookout whistles loudly if he spots danger, hence the other name for groundhogs: whistle-pigs. This is a great word that I must use often.
  • Marmots are such good diggers and architects that their burrows have front doors, back doors, and guest quarters for the skunks and foxes that take up rent-free residence in the winter. Squatters!
  • Sadly, hedgehogs are not part of the marmot family, a fact that required the deletion of some content on this post. Hmph.
Do you think this serious fellow is on lookout duty?
It's 4pm. Do you know where your woodchucks are? (photo by April King)

He might be…or he might be listening for his name on the wind…

Yes, I think that’s it. And the person uttering his name is children’s writer Laura Sassi, who has burrowed her way to NWR today to bring us a delightful poem about these perky little critters. Please give your best pig whistle for Laura and “Sir Ned”!

Sir Ned

A woodchuck that I named Sir Ned
Lives under our old wooden shed.
All winter he slumbers,
Then come spring he lumbers
Up out of his underground bed.

This spring when he made his first show,
I could see that he had a new glow.
I gasped to discover
That Ned was a mother
With two tiny woodchucks in tow!

But now when we meet by our shed,
It seems rude to say, “Hello, Ned.”
So, as Ned struts about
With two babies, I shout,
“Good Morning, Petunia!” instead.

[heading style=”1″]Guest Poet Interview ~ Laura Sassi[/heading]

What’s Up with Laura

Laura: who are you, where are you, and how long have you been a rhyming fool?
I’m a children’s poet, story writer, and former fourth grade teacher. I’ve been a rhyming fool for as long as I can remember. I’m also a mother, chauffeur, chef, dog walker, homework coach, and all around cheerleader to two fantastic kids and one curly-haired pup. I live with my husband and family in a century-old house in a suburban New Jersey town. I write daily in some comfy corner of the house or on the front porch.

Are you actually hoarding marmots under your shed, or was there a different inspiration for this poem?
Woodchucks know good digs when they see them, so for years we were graced by a growing family of woodchucks. They were a shy, lumbering lot and didn’t bother us one bit, though I suspect they were the culprits who feasted regularly on my marigolds. We’ve since moved, but I imagine they still live there. It was a very cozy sub-shed burrow with multiple entries and plenty of nearby berries and other tasty edibles.

Is poetry your main thing, or do you write other stuff, too? And how have you muzzled your way to publication?
I’ve been writing for children for over twelve years and have had 130+ poems, stories, crafts, and articles published, or accepted for publication, in magazines including Highlights for Children, Spider, Cricket, Ladybug, Boys’ Quest, Hopscotch for Girls, Family Fun, Pack-O-Fun, and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse, Jr. In fact, “Sir Ned” first appeared in the May 2011 issue of Clubhouse Jr., a delightful, beautifully put together Christian children’s magazine.

For the first several years, I focused mainly on magazine fiction, articles, and crafts. I’ve always loved rhyming, however, and just couldn’t ignore that passion. So, even though I knew breaking into the children’s market as a rhymer would be a challenge, I kept at it. I’ve had rhyming success in the magazine market, but have always wanted to break into the picture book market as well.

So once I had completed several picture book manuscripts, I queried agents — and just over a year ago, I signed on with a wonderful kidlit agent, Mary Kole of Movable Type Management. Mary has great knowledge of the picture book market, as well as a keen editorial eye. Now with Mary to help me navigate the complex world of book publishing, I’ve shifted my writing time to focus more on picture books. My specialty: humorous, rhyming picture books for youngest readers.

Do you have any favorite children’s poets that inspire you?
As a child I loved A. A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. I specifically remember turning six and feeling an extra special kinship to the Now We Are Six book. My all time favorite A. A. Milne poems are “The King’s Breakfast” and “Disobedience.” They’ve stuck with me through the years because of their simplicity and humor.

As a rhyming picture book writer, I also love rhyming picture books. My two current favorites are Karma Wilson’s Whopper Cake and While Mama Had a Quick Little Chat by Amy Reichert.

What do you do when you’re not stalking woodchucks?
When not writing (or stalking woodchucks) I love to read and draw. I enjoy hanging out with my family — hiking, traveling, and just having fun together. I also volunteer at our church and the kids’ schools, and I just finished up a five-year stint as my son’s Cub Scout Den Leader. Life is busy, but it’s full of lots of good fodder for a creative mind.

Can we come visit you? Is there room for all of us under the shed?
Yes, you can come visit! I’d love it if folks stopped by. Here are the links:

Blog: Laura Sassi Tales
Twitter: @LauraSassiTales

Thanks for stopping by, Laura, and for adding “Sir Ned” to No Water River’s growing video poetry library!
Thanks so much for having me over, Renée. It was so much fun!

[heading style=”1″]Extension Activities for “Sir Ned”[/heading]


Video Location: By the shed, somewhere in New Jersey.

See more poems in my poetry video library.
“Sir Ned” copyright © Laura Sassi. First appeared in the May 2011 issue of Focus on the Family Clubhouse Jr. magazine.

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  1. I love your poem, Laura! But I am not sure I love woodchucks. I have one living in the stone wall across from my vegetable garden. From my studio window, I have a good view of him (or her) peeking out from the rocks, looking left, looking right then galumphing straight to my Swiss chard and lettuce. Mad as I am, it sure would be nice to see woodchuck babies sometime 🙂

  2. I love your poem Ms. Sassi! It is really funny! I didn’t know you stalked groundhogs! 😉 I would love to see woodchuck babies!

  3. Laura, since seeing you on this blog I visited your site. I really love the look of it. And your poem, is just delightful! I smiled widely upon reading the little twist at the end. Nice touch, Laura. Say Renee, are meerkats related to woodchuck? The information you posted reminded me of a documentary series I used to watch called, Meerkat Manor. Great extension activities, too! Enjoyed this post, ladies.

  4. I was convinced woodchucks were birds!! So I add another term to groundhog and marmot. I do a fantastic imitation marmot warning whistle and love watching the lookout. Here in the mountains you can get pretty close to them! Loved this poem and the interview!

    1. Flying woodchucks? Nooo! Did you ever hear this tongue twister:

      How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

      I can’t picture birds hurling logs, haha. Would love to hear your marmot whistle!

  5. It just so happens I know quite a bit about marmots 🙂 Thanks for sharing 🙂 Loved the poem and interview! Laura, how awesome that you’re with Mary Kole! And one of my 2 favorite Milne poems is also “The King’s Breakfast”… coincidence? I also love the one about “Jon has great big waterproof boots on” etc… and “Now I am six” has always been a favorite too 🙂 Thanks for a great interview!

  6. Wow! I just stopped in to see how it’s going over here at No Water River and am delighted to see that there are so many woodchuck fans spanning the globe. Thanks, all, for your kind words. And thanks, again, to Renee, for organizing this FANTASTIC series. It’s brilliant!

  7. No woodchucks here, though we do have some mysterious holes in the yard…. Laura, I loved your poem! Great reading, and thanks to Renee for posting it and organizing this fab. series in the first place.

  8. Laura,
    It’s great to put a face with a name! I also write from time to time for Clubhouse Jr, and we’re subscribed to the magazine. So your name looked very familiar! Cute poem with a twist. Best wishes on your writing journey!

  9. Love the poem! I am particular to the name Ned since I taught at a school district named Jim Ned for 24 years….Jim Ned was an Indian cavalry scout for the United States Army…not a woodchuck. Even though I am partial to Ned, Petunia does seem more fitting for this particular woodchuck!
    Laura, thanks so much for reading for us and for sharing your writing experiences.
    Renee…thanks for your poetry video library….love it…just love it!!!!

  10. It’s a delightful poem. I sighted more woodchucks when I lived in Missouri, but the Colorado mountains are home to delightful marmots, mostly sunning on large rocks. At least that’s how I’ve seen them. Your poem cleverly introduces sweet Ned then flips with a surprise. I bet lots of kids love it! Thanks Renee & Laura.

  11. Thanks, everybody, for your kind words. Tina, I recognize your name from Clubhouse Jr. as well. And yes, having an agent as a rhyming PB writer is possible! =)

  12. Yes, it is almost Friday and I am showing up to Poetry Monday! The only good thing about that is the next Poetry Monday is only a few days away!

    Groundhogs were always woodchucks growing up. I once chased a woodchuck out of our woodpile. My mom still loves reminiscing about me making sure the groundhog was far, far away from her woodpile. I was surprised at how fast they are!

    Thanks for sharing your poem Laura. Good luck with your picture books!

  13. What a delightful poem, and I love the “delivery” and setting! Congrats to Laura for all her success (and hard work). This spring, a groundhog (what we call them here in Georgia) made quite the impressive digs under a fallen tree stump by our driveway. Haven’t seen lately, but we’re kind of lousy at keeping groundcover at bay, so now it has a shaded canopy to go with the burrow. ;0) Thanks for another great video, Renee!

  14. Thank you again, Renee, for putting together this FABULOUS website dedicated to celebrating picture books and poetry. You are doing a terrific job and I am certain that as word continues to spread about your thoughtfully put together “Poetry Mondays” that teachers will flock to your site. What a resource and beautiful contribution you are making to the children’s literature community. I feel honored to be just one little part of it.

    Three pig-whistle cheers for Renee!

    1. Laura, you are too kind. But really, the site wouldn’t be much to look at without all the poets who agree to put themselves out there and do a video. It’s been a thrill to discover how generous the kidlit community is. Youse guys are the best!!

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