This is a groundhog - also known as a woodchuck, whistlepig, or marmot. Groundhogs are cute... when they're not eating your garden down to the nubs. This time of year, groundhogs are hibernating. At least most of them are. But one, Punxsutawney Phil, is getting ready for his big day. Because next week is Groundhog Day.
Groundhogs, it seems, can predict when spring is coming - at least according to folklore. If, on February 2, a groundhog emerges from its burrow and sees its shadow, then we're stuck with winter for another 6 weeks (which is about the length of time from Feb. 2 to the equinox). If, on the other hand, he does not see his shadow, then we get an early spring.
According to the experts at the National Climatic Data Center, Punxsutawney Phil has made accurate predictions about 39 percent of the time. Not good odds if predicting spring is your only job! You'd do better to flip a coin, or head outside and look for your own shadow.
If you're looking for groundhog books, there are some down at the library:
Wake Up, Groundhog, by Carol Cohen has been around for a couple dozen years. In this story Miss Pigeon tries to wake up Groundhog using a variety of alarm clocks and bells. They don't work - but at the end she finally discovers what makes groundhogs wake up. hint: it's not cookies.
Ten grouchy groundhogs, by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook , is an alliterative countdown book. Ten grouchy, grubby, gobbling, gabby, giggly, groovy, graceful, glitzy, gleeful, groggy groundhogs can't wait for winter to end so they can get out of their den.
Check out the nonfiction section for books on woodchucks, too. There's a wonderful book in the "nature's children" series, accompanied by photos.