A Quarterback's Mom Helps Out
Poetry Friday: Quilt Alphabet

Chipmunk Tale

Chipmunk How Chipmunk Got His Stripes
by Joseph Bruchac and James Bruchac
illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2001
ISBN-13: 9780142500217
32 pages

A lively picture-book version of an old Native American story, written by Joseph Bruchac and his son, James, who are of Abenaki heritage. Big bossy Bear brags that he can do anything, including stopping the sun from rising. A skeptical squirrel challenges him on that, and when daybreak comes the next morning, Brown Squirrel gives Bear endless rounds of grief. Bear's anger and a swipe of his paw onto Brown Squirrel's back turn the smaller creature into something else. Young readers won't miss the poor outcomes of bragging and teasing, needless to say. Aruego and Dewey employ a colorful naif style to show all the animals involved as well as the passage of time; Bear is goofy enough not to be really scary. Seven or eight year olds who want to read a shorter book on their own won't go wrong with How Chipmunk Got His Stripes.

I've found that kids love these pourquoi tales. The educators' web site ReadWriteThink gives this helpful definition: "Pourquoi stories are stories or folk tales that explain how or why something exists (usually in nature)."  Perhaps part of the appeal for children comes from looking at ordinary things in a new, magical light, too. You can find a long list of additional pourquoi recommendations at the Center for Children's Books.


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HOW CHIPMUNK GOT HIS STRIPES is one of my favorite pourquoi tales. It's a great book to read aloud. Children enjoy the humor.

I arranged for James Bruchac to be a visiting author in our schools. He was wonderful! He did storytelling sessions with our second graders--and then worked with students to write collaborative class pourquoi tales.

Have you read RACCOON'S LAST RACE and TURTLE'S RACE WITH BEAVER, which were also written by Joseph and James Bruchac and illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey?

Thanks for the link to the pourquoi recommendations. I'll have to check it out.

Elaine, thank you! I bet it was so fun for the kids to work with James Bruchac. I'll have to look for the raccoon and turtle & beaver books; the Bruchacs and the illustrators are a good team. Another porquoi tale we like is about how bats came to be. I've only heard it told out loud as a story--I believe it's from a Bruchac anthology.

I bought my copy of this book when we were visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. I was enchanted by the chipmunks everywhere and the park bookstore also had a chipmunk finger puppet (how we love finger puppets) that I bought too. You have reminded me of this story in time to use it at an event I'm doing soon. Thank you so much.

I first saw chipmunks in the Smoky Mountain National Park when I was about nine, Camille. I just loved them, too. So cute. There are chipmunks here in CT, but we don't see them too often in our yard. Plenty of squirrels--those we have.

Thanks for the tip, Susan. I've never read this one. Sounds like my girls will love it, and I'm making a library trip today!

Thanks for posting about this book. I'm always fascinated by how folktales have parallels in other cultures. There is a well-known story in the Indian epic, the Ramayana, which tells how squirrel got its stripes! One retelling is here.

Jules, I really like the book; our friend Miss Lynne the Librarian recommended it. She knows that Jr. is fond of this kind of story. Tell me how your girls like it!

Thanks, LS! I'm fascinated, too. In the author notes, Jos. Bruchac says that several different Native American tribes, including the Cherokee and Mohawk, tell this story. I'll go check out the Ramayana link. Gracias.

I love this book! It makes such a great read aloud, and you can include the kids to do the "The sun will not come up. Humph!" and "The sun is going to rise. Oooo!"

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