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.
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”!
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]
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.
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:
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]
- Pair the poem with a marmot-themed picture book like Susanna Leonard Hill and Jeffrey Ebberley’s Punxsutawney Phyllis or April Fool, Phyllis! (which you can read more about in my post here), or A Promise Is a Promise by Knister and Eve Tharlet.
- Learn some groundhog facts at Bright Hub Education, which also provides links to lessons, activities, and crafts about hibernation and a preschool theme on Groundhog Day.
- Lots of fun marmot-themed crafts and activities at Apples4theTeacher, Artists Helping Children, and Enchanted Learning.
- In the kitchen: groundhog cupcakes, groundhog cookies, groundhog pancakes, and groundhog hot cocoa.
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.