Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 7 – The Woodchuck Family


Chapter 7

The Woodchuck Family


Peter Rabbit delivered Mother Nature’s message to Johnny Chuck requesting he join them for a learning session. Johnny didn’t seem at all pleased. He grumbled to himself. He didn’t want to go. He didn’t want to learn anything about his relatives. He was perfectly satisfied with things as they were. As a rule he can find plenty to eat very near his home, so he seldom goes far from his own doorstep. Peter left him grumbling and chuckled to himself all the way back to the dear Old Briar-patch. He knew that Johnny Chuck would honor Mother Nature’s request.

Sure enough, the next morning Johnny Chuck came waddling through the Green Forest just as Mother Nature was about to begin. He didn’t look at all happy, and he didn’t reply at all to the greetings of the others. However, when Mother Nature spoke to him he was very polite.

“Good morning, Johnny Chuck,” she said.

Johnny bobbed his head and said, “Good morning.”

“I understand,” continued Mother Nature, “That you are not at all interested in learning about your relatives. Did you know that the more one knows the better fitted he is to take care of himself and do his part in the work of the Great World? However, it wasn’t for your benefit that I sent word for you to be here this morning. It was for the benefit of your friends and neighbors. Now if you would kindly sit up so that all can get a good look at you.”

Johnny Chuck sat up, and of course all the others looked at him. It made him feel a bit uneasy. “You remember,” said Mother Nature, “how surprised you little folks were when I told you that Johnny Chuck is a member of the Squirrel family. Happy Jack, you go sit beside Johnny Chuck, and the rest of you look hard at Happy Jack and Johnny and see if you can discover the family resemblance.”

Seeing Happy Jack the squirrel and Johnny Chuck sitting up side by side, Peter Rabbit caught the resemblance at once. There was sort of family look about them. “Why! Johnny Chuck does look like a Squirrel,” he exclaimed.

Woodchuck illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Ah yes, he does look like a Squirrel, because he is one,” said Mother Nature. “And Johnny Chuck is very much bigger and so stout in the body that he is not as nimble as the true Squirrels. You will also notice that the shape of his head is much the same as that of Happy Jack and he does have a Squirrel face when you come to look at him closely. The Woodchucks, sometimes called Ground Hogs, belong to the Marmot branch of the Squirrel family, and wherever they are found they look much alike.

“As you will notice, Johnny Chuck’s coat is brownish-yellow, his feet are very dark brown, almost black. His head is dark brown with light gray on his cheeks. Beneath he is reddish-orange, including his throat. His tail is short for a member of the Squirrel family, and although it is bushy, it is not very big. He has a number of whiskers and they are black. Some Woodchucks are quite gray, and occasionally there is one who is almost all black, just as there are black Gray Squirrels.

“Johnny, here, is not fond of the Green Forest, and instead loves the Old Orchard and the Green Meadows. In some parts of the country there are members of his family who prefer to live just on the edge of the Green Forest. You will notice that Johnny has stout claws. Those are to help him dig, for all the Marmot family are great diggers. What other use do you have for those claws, Johnny?”

Green Meadow & Old Orchard, seen here in the spring, where woodchucks like to live.

“They help me to climb,” replied Johnny promptly.

“Climb!” exclaimed Peter Rabbit. “Who ever heard of a Woodchuck climbing?”

“I can climb if I have to,” replied Johnny Chuck. “I’ve climbed up bushes and low trees lots of times, and if I can get a good run first, I can climb up the straight trunk of a tree with rough bark to the first branches–if they are not too far above ground. You just ask Reddy Fox, he knows.”

“That’s quite true, Johnny,” said Mother Nature. “You can climb a little, however you are better as a digger.”

“He certainly is a great digger,” exclaimed Peter Rabbit. “My, how he can make the sand fly! Johnny Chuck certainly is right at home when it comes to digging.”

“You ought to be thankful that he is,” said Mother Nature, “for the holes he has dug have saved your life more than once. By the way, Peter, since you are so well acquainted with those holes, suppose you tell us what kind of a home Johnny Chuck has.”

Peter was delighted to share. “The last one I was in,” he said, “was a long tunnel slanting down for quite a distance and then straightening out. The entrance was quite large with a big heap of sand out in front of it. Down a little way the tunnel grew smaller and then remained the same size all the rest of the way. Way down at the farther end was a nice little bedroom with some grass in it. There were one or two other little rooms, and there were two branch tunnels leading up to the surface of the ground, making side or back doorways. There was no sand around either of these, and they were quite hidden by the long grass hanging over them. I don’t understand how Johnny made those doorways without leaving any sand on the doorsteps.”

“Oh!” inserted Johnny Chuck. “That was easy enough. I pushed all the sand out of the main doorway so that there would be nothing to attract the attention of any one passing near those back doorways. Those back doorways are very handy in time of danger.”

“Do you always have three doorways?” asked Happy Jack.

“No,” replied Johnny Chuck. “Sometimes I have only two and once in a while only one and that isn’t really safe, so I mean always to have at least two.”

“Do you use the same house year after year?” piped up Striped Chipmunk.

Johnny shook his head. “No,” he said. “I dig a new hole each spring. Mrs. Chuck and I like a change of scene. Usually my new home isn’t very far from my old one, because I am not fond of traveling. Sometimes, however, if we cannot find a place that just suits us, we go quite a distance.”

“Are your babies born down in that little bedroom in the ground?” asked Jumper the Hare.

“Yes,” replied Johnny Chuck. “Where else might they be born?”

“Oh, I don’t know, I thought Mrs. Chuck might make a nest on the ground the way Mrs. Peter and Mrs. Jumper do,” replied Jumper.

“No, siree!” replied Johnny. “Our babies are born in that little underground bedroom, and they stay down in the ground until they are big enough to hunt for food for themselves.”

“How many do you usually have?” inquired Chatterer the Red Squirrel.

“Six or eight,” replied Johnny Chuck. “Mrs. Chuck and I have large families.”

“Do you eat nuts like the rest of our family?” inquired Striped Chipmunk.

“No,” replied Johnny Chuck. “Give me green food every time. There is nothing so good as tender sweet clover and young grass, unless it be some of those fine vegetables Farmer Brown grows in his garden.”

Sweet Clover in the spring is a tasty treat for many.

Peter Rabbit nodded his head very emphatically as if he quite agreed.

“I suppose you are what is called a vegetarian, then,” said Happy Jack, to which Johnny Chuck replied that he supposed he was. “And I suppose that is why you sleep all winter,” added Happy Jack.

“If I didn’t I would starve,” responded Johnny Chuck promptly. “When it gets near time for Jack Frost to arrive, I eat and eat and eat the last of the good green things until I’m so fat I can hardly waddle. Then I go down to my bedroom, curl up and go to sleep. Cold weather, snow and ice don’t worry me a bit. I simply stay tucked inside.”

“Me too,” spoke up Striped Chipmunk. “I sleep most of the winter myself. Of course I have a lot of food stored away down in my house, and once in a while I wake up and eat a little. Do you ever wake up in the winter, Johnny Chuck?”

“No,” replied Johnny. “I sleep right through, thank goodness. Sometimes I wake up very early in the spring before the snow is all gone, earlier than I wish I did. That is where my fat comes in handy. It keeps me warm and keeps me alive until I can find the first green plants. Perhaps you have noticed that early in the spring I am as thin as I was fat in the fall. This is because I have used up the fat, waiting for the first green things to appear.”

“Do you have many predators?” asked Peter Rabbit, who has so many himself that he is constantly thinking of them.

“Not many, enough though,” Johnny Chuck said with a frown. “Reddy Fox, Old Man Coyote, humans, and Dogs are the worst. Of course, when I was small I always had to be watching out for Hawks, and of course, like all the rest of us little folks, I am afraid of Shadow the Weasel. Reddy Fox has tried to dig me out more than once, however I can dig faster than he can. If he ever gets me cornered, he’ll find that I can fight. A small Dog surprised me once before I could get to my hole and I guess that Dog never will tackle another Woodchuck.”

“Thank you Johnny Chuck,” Mother Nature said with a smile. “ And I’d like to tell you all more about Johnny Chuck’s family including his big cousin out in the mountains of the Great West named Whistler, and on the prairies of the Great West he has a smaller cousin named Yap Yap. They are quite important members of the Marmot family. Johnny Chuck, I’d love for you to join us too,” she added.

“Yes, if you please, Mother Nature,” he said, “I think I’ll come. I didn’t know I had any close relatives, and I want to know more about them.”

So it was agreed that all would gather again at sun-up the next morning. Then everybody started for home to think over the things they had learned.

This Curious Capkin has created more P.L.A.Y. Ponderings just for you!

Following the prompts below draw, doodle, write, ponder, paint, color, and creatively capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!

  1. Since it is not likely to see a woodchuck sitting directly next to a squirrel, how else might you observe and compare a woodchuck to a squirrel? Make a list of similar features and differences or draw them if you like.
  2. When you read Johnny Chuck’s description of his tunneled home what images come to mind? Can you draw or paint and label his home underground with the details provided?
  3. *How is the woodchuck burrow and tunnels made so that he doesn’t drown in heavy rains? How is the bedding carried into the burrow? If observing a woodchuck in the meadow, where is it likely to station itself to sit upright and look for intruders? What is the shape of a woodchuck’s ear? Does a woodchuck have good hearing? When do woodchucks know to reappear in the spring? When are young woodchucks born?

For a review of this book and more beaver resources visit: HERE

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


❤ ❤ ❤ Thank You! ❤ ❤ ❤


Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 4 – Red + Gray Squirrels


Chapter 4

Red and Gray Squirrels


Peter Rabbit, on his way to learn more from Mother Nature, was trying to make up his mind about which of his neighbors he would ask to join him. He had learned so many surprising things about his own family that he shrewdly suspected many equally surprising things were to be learned about his neighbors. However, there were so many neighbors he couldn’t decide which one to ask first.

Alas, that matter was settled for him, and in a funny way. Hardly had he reached the edge of the Green Forest when he was hailed by a voice. “Hello, Peter Rabbit!” said this voice. “Where are you bound at this hour of the morning? Usually you are heading for home in the dear Old Briar-patch.”

Peter knew that voice the instant he heard it. It was the voice of Happy Jack the Gray Squirrel. Happy Jack was seated on the top of an old stump, eating a nut. “I’m going to learn,” replied Peter with a great excitement.

“Going to learn, you say?” Happy Jack. “Oh please do tell me who you are going to learn with and what you will be learning.”

“I’m going to learn with Mother Nature,” replied Peter. “I’ve been going for several days, and so has my cousin, Jumper the Hare. We’ve learned a lot about our own family and now we are going to learn about the other little people of the Green Forest and the Green Meadows.”

“Really?!” exclaimed Happy Jack. “I do think I know allot about my own family although I guess I never really considered knowing about my neighbors too.”

“Is that so?” asked Peter. “I’m curious to know if you actually do know all your own cousins. I thought I knew all of mine and discovered I didn’t.”

Gray Squirrel illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“What are you fellows talking about?” asked another voice. Chatterer the Red Squirrel jumped from one tree to another just above Peter’s head.

“Peter is getting me curious about how much I may not know about our own family” said Happy Jack in a pondering sort of way. “He is on his way to learn with Mother Nature and has advised me to join him.”

“I think it would be fun to go learn for a while , especially about the Squirrel family” Chatterer the Red Squirrel eagerly chimed in. “What do you say, Peter, may I go along with you?”

Peter said that he thought it would be a very fine thing and that Chatterer would not regret it. Chatterer winked at his cousin, Happy Jack, and followed Peter. Chatterer kept up in the trees while Peter was hopping lipperty-lipperty-lip on the ground. Happy Jack hesitated a minute and then, curiosity becoming too much for him, hastened to join the others too.

“Hello!” exclaimed Old Mother Nature, as Happy Jack and Chatterer appeared with Peter Rabbit. “What are you frisky folks doing over here?”

Happy Jack and Chatterer appeared to have lost their tongues, something very unusual for them, especially for Chatterer. The fact is, in the presence of Mother Nature they felt bashful. Peter replied for them. “They’ve decided to come learn too,” he said. “Happy Jack says he feels like knows all about his own family and he has come along to find out if he really does.”

“It won’t take us long to find out,” said Mother Nature softly and her eyes twinkled with amusement. “How many cousins have you, Happy Jack?”

Happy Jack thought for a moment. “Three,” he replied in an unsure way. Peter chuckled to himself as he knew that doubt was already beginning to grow in Happy Jack’s mind.

“Can you name them?” Mother Nature promptly asked.

“Chatterer the Red Squirrel, Timmy the Flying Squirrel, and Striped Chipmunk,” replied Happy Jack.

“He’s forgotten Rusty the Fox Squirrel,” Chatterer inserted, dancing about gleefully.

Happy Jack looked crestfallen and gave Chatterer an angry look.

“That’s right, Chatterer,” said Mother Nature. “Rusty is a very important member of the Squirrel family. Now suppose you name the others.”

“Wha–wha–what others?” stammered Chatterer. “I don’t know of any others.”

Peter Rabbit hugged himself with glee as he watched the faces of Happy Jack and Chatterer. “They don’t know any more about their family than we did about ours,” he whispered in one of the long ears of Jumper the Hare.

As for Mother Nature, she simply smiled. “Put on your thinking caps, you two,” she said. “You have only named half of them. For sure you are not to blame for that, for some of them you have never seen. There is one member of the Squirrel family whom both of you do know very well and yet neither of you named them.”

Red Squirrel Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Chatterer looked at Happy Jack, and Happy Jack looked at Chatterer, and each scratched his head. Each wanted to be the first to think of that other cousin. For although they scratched and scratched their heads, they couldn’t think who that other cousin could be. Mother Nature waited a few minutes before she told them. Then, seeing that either they couldn’t remember or didn’t know, she said, “You didn’t mention Johnny Chuck.”

“Johnny Chuck!” exclaimed Chatterer and Happy Jack together, and the look of surprise on their faces was truly a funny sight to see. For that matter, the looks on the faces of Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare were equally as funny.

Mother Nature nodded. “Johnny Chuck,” she repeated. “He is a member of the Squirrel family. He belongs to the Marmot branch and he is a Squirrel just the same. He is one of your cousins.”

“He’s a mighty funny looking Squirrel,” said Chatterer, jerking his tail as only he can.

Mother Nature looked first at Chatterer and then at Happy Jack. “I think it would be helpful if you both came to learn with me for a while along with Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare. Would that be alright? Now which of you can tell me what order do you all belong to?”

Happy Jack looked at Chatterer, Chatterer looked at Peter Rabbit, and Peter looked at Jumper the Hare. On the face of each was such a funny, puzzled expression that Mother Nature almost laughed right out. Finally Peter Rabbit found his tongue. “If you please,” he said, “I guess we don’t know what you mean by an order.”

“Oh yes, right you are, let me explain.” said Mother Nature. “First, the animals of the Great World are divided into big groups or divisions, and then these groups are divided into smaller groups, and these in turn into still smaller groups. Happy Jack and Chatterer belong to a group called the Squirrel family, and Peter and Jumper to a group called the Hare family. Both of these families and several other families belong to a bigger group called an order, and this order is the order of Gnawers, or Rodents.”

Peter Rabbit fairly jumped up in the air with excitement. “Then Jumper and I must be related to Happy Jack and Chatterer,” he cried.

“In a way you are,” replied Mother Nature. “It isn’t a very close relationship, still you are related. All of you are Rodents. So are all the members of the Rat and Mouse family, the Beaver family, the Porcupine family, the Pocket Gopher family, the Pika family, and the Sewellel family.”


Mother Nature shares classifications: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species

By this time Peter’s eyes looked as if they would pop right out of his head. “This is the first time I’ve ever heard of some of those families,” he said. “My, what a lot we have to learn! Is it because all the members of all those families have teeth for gnawing that they are all sort of related?”

Mother Nature looked pleased. “Peter,” she said, “that is exactly why. All the members of all the families I have named belong to the same order, the order of Rodents. All the members have big, cutting, front teeth. Animals without such teeth cannot gnaw. Now, as you and Jumper have learned about your family, it is the turn of Happy Jack and Chatterer to learn about their family. Theirs is rather a large family, and it is divided into three groups, the first of which consists of the true Squirrels, to which group both Happy Jack and Chatterer belong. The second group consists of the Marmots, and Johnny Chuck belongs to this. The third group Timmy the Flying Squirrel has all to himself.”

“Where does Striped Chipmunk come in?” asked Chatterer.

“I’m coming to that,” replied Mother Nature. “The true Squirrels are divided into the Tree Squirrels, Rock Squirrels, and Ground Squirrels. Of course Chatterer and Happy Jack are Tree Squirrels.”

“And Striped Chipmunk is a Ground Squirrel,” Peter inserted.

Mother Nature shook her head. “Actually, no Peter, this is not the case,” she said. “Striped Chipmunk is a Rock Squirrel. Seek Seek the Spermophile who lives on the plains of the West and is often called Gopher Squirrel, is the true Ground Squirrel.”

“And now I must run along,” said Mother Nature. “You little folks enjoy your day and I’ll meet with you all again here tomorrow morning where I shall expect Chatterer to tell me all about Happy Jack, and Happy Jack to tell me all about Chatterer.”

So Peter, Jumper, Chatterer, and Happy Jack thanked Mother Nature for all she had told them and scampered away. Peter headed straight for the far corner of the Orchard where he was sure he would find Johnny Chuck. He couldn’t get there fast enough, for he wanted to be the first to tell Johnny Chuck that he was a Squirrel. You see he didn’t believe that Johnny knew any of this.

This Curious Capkin has created more P.L.A.Y. Ponderings just for you!

Following the prompts below draw, doodle, write, ponder, paint, color, and creatively capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!

  1. Can you make a long list of what Rodents, or Gnawers, live in your “neck-of-the-woods” or neighborhood?
  2. Do you have squirrels? Do you know which kind? Where they live or rest? What do they eat?
  3. *Observe and Ponder: Does the squirrel trot along or leap when running on the ground? Run straight ahead or stop and look about to see if the “coast is clear”? Does the squirrel have long or short legs? Does it have paws with claws? When climbing a tree, does it go straight up, or move around the trunk? Does it hide using the tree trunk? Is it able to go head first down the tree? Can it travel on the smallest of branches? Does it follow the same route to and from the tree? How does it hold its leg and tail when in the air jumping from branch to branch? What colors are on a red squirrel? Does it change with the seasons? Is the tail as long as the body? Does it express emotion? What is it used for in regards to jumping or in their nest?

For a review of this book and more beaver resources visit: HERE

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


❤ ❤ ❤ Thank You! ❤ ❤ ❤