Weather predicting rodent: why February 2nd is significant

groundhogSpring seems so far away, yet it is almost time for Punxsutawney Phil, Staten Island Chuck, General Beauregard Lee, and many others to emerge from their winter den to predict the weather for the remainder of winter. While there is not much actual science behind the holiday, this rodent’s prediction is highly coveted as the hope for an early end to the icy, snowy weather is anticipated.

Where did the idea for this holiday come from? February 2nd has been a significant day in winter for centuries. This date reflects the midpoint of winter, halfway between the solstice and the equinox. From the Pagan holiday (Ibolc) to the Christian holiday (Candlemas), many past celebrations have marked this midwinter point.

The first mention of weather prediction on Candlemas day comes from the Germans. This date was also a day for the farmers to assess their feed supply, and predict if they would have ample supply for the remainder of the season, or skinny cows come spring.

The early German settlers brought their weather predicting traditions to America. Instead of a hedgehog, or a badger the groundhog fit the bill to be woken from his hibernation and predict the duration of the remaining winter. The first reference to Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania was in 1841, the first reporting in the newspaper was in 1886, and the first time Punxsutawney Phil emerged from Gobbler’s Knob was one year later in 1887.

Through 2013 Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow 100 times predicting more winter, and only 17 times has he predicted an early spring. What will the prediction be in 2014? Find out at 7:30 on Sunday morning.

Celebrate with this groundhog coloring page! And learn more in Prairie Storms by Darcy Pattision.



Information for this post gathered from, and mental_floss

Celebrate Groundhog Day!

PrairieStorms_Pic1What do John Dalton, Al Roker, and Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog have in common? They’re all famous weathermen! Groundhogs, which also go by the name woodchucks, are ground squirrels related to chipmunks and prairie dogs. They live in the North East of the United States and in Canada, where they feed on wild grasses and insects and live in burrows they dig for themselves. Sometimes the tunnels that make up their homes can interfere with the homes of humans by making the ground under buildings unstable. Some farmers and homeowners get mad at Groundhogs for damaging their property. However, other people believe that Groundhogs provide a useful service for humans: they predict the weather!

In the 1800’s, German immigrants in Pennsylvania started a tradition where, every February 2nd, they watched the behavior of a special Groundhog to tell them how soon Spring would begin. They would gather around the weatherman-Groundhog’s burrow and watch as he emerged. If the day was sunny, the groundhog might see his shadow, become afraid, and retreat into his burrow. According to the tradition, this is his way of telling people that Winter will last for another six weeks. If the Groundhog doesn’t see his shadow and leaves his burrow, then Spring will come early! Instead of using graphs and images for his weather forecast, the Groundhog communicates with his emotions!

This tradition was “Candlemas” to the German immigrants, but now we know it as “Groundhog Day.” Every February 2nd, people still look to famous Weather-Groundhogs such as Punxsutawney Phil, Western Maryland Murray, and Chattanooga Chuck to tell them how soon spring will come. The weathermen-Groundhogs are never completely accurate with their predictions, but then again, neither are human weathermen!

Learn more about groundhogs in Prairie Storms by Darcy Pattison and click on the picture below to print this great coloring page by Kathleen Rietz.


Darcy Pattison Discusses Prairie Storms and Writing on PBS Special

Darcy Pattison will discuss her latest children’s book, Prairie Stormsas part of “AETN Presents: On the Same Page” on the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) on Friday, Oct. 21, at 6:30 p.m., and again on Wednesday, October 26 at 6:30 p.m..  “AETN Presents: On the Same Page” is part of AETN Arts Fridays, featuring world class arts and culture programming and locally produced series.

Darcy Pattison is the 2007 recipient of the Arkansas Governor’s Arts Award for her work in children’s literature. She founded the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators Arkansas Chapter, and actively serves as a speaker and judge for chapters throughout the nation. She is currently co-chair of the Children’s Program for the Arkansas Literary Festival. Pattison’s other works include Nineteen Girls and Me and Searching for Oliver K. Woodman.

Prairie Storms gives children a front row seat into the harsh climate of the American prairie and how the animals that reside within it adapt to the ever-changing climate. Pattison focuses on a different prairie animal and habitat each month, showing how a prairie grouse surves the freezing snows of winer or how a lizard evades the brutal sun and heat of summer with realistic watercolor illustrations by Kathleen Rietz. Written in lyrical prose and complete with activities and quizzes, Pattison’s book is both an educational and celebratory look into the great American prairies.

Be sure to watch for Darcy’s next Sylvan Dell picture book, Desert Baths, out Fall 2012!

Get to Know Darcy Pattison, Author of Prairie Storms

Darcy Pattison is an award-winning author of numerous books, and the author of the Sylvan Dell Fall 2011 Release Prairie Storms.


What drew you to writing, children’s books especially?

I write because I read children’s books to my own children. With four kids, it meant years and years of reading books, during which time I developed a love of the picture book form and a passion for chapter books for kids. I started writing when they were young and have never grown up.

What do you hope children get out of your stories?

My goal is to help kids enjoy playing with language. Of course, that means a story and I hope they enjoy the story, too. And since Prairie Storms is a non-fiction book, it also means facts. I want kids to have fun learning about the ani-mals and the storms and how living creatures interacts with the weather and cli-mate of their area. But mostly, this is meant to be a great read aloud that an adult can share with a kid, and enjoy a moment of shared pleasure in the words, the art, the sound of literature, the joy of knowing something.

What tips do you have to encourage young readers?

Read, read, read. The more you practice, the better reader you will be. And why should you want to be a great reader? So you can travel to places you’ve never seen, can feel emotions you’ll never feel any other way. In Prairie Storms, for example, you’ll stand stare into the face of a blizzard and stand, “prairie strong and defiant.”

What is the most rewarding thing about having your books published?

Because I’m published, it means I get to visit many places and talk to many peo-ple. In that sense, writing and publishing has enlarged my world, made me friends with widely scattered folks. I love the book, as something you can hold and open together. But mostly, I love that crea-tive work can connect people in special ways.

Any advice for those interested in writing?

Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Prac-tice is the most important thing you can do. If you want to be in a rock band, you don’t just pick up a guitar and wind up rich. Instead, you learn how to play chords, how to write music, how to sing. In other words, you practice. Don’t expect to sell the first thing you write. You may need to write ten novels before you write well enough to sell well. Consider those books and those years as an apprenticeship and you’ll be fine.

Darcy Pattison, ( author of both picture books and novels, has been published in eight languages. Her books include 19 Girls and Me (Philomel,), Searching for Oliver K. Woodman (Harcourt), The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman (Harcourt), The Scary Slope (graphic novel from Stone Arch). Her books have been recognized for excellence by **starred reviews in Kirkus and BCCB, Child magazine Best Books of the Year 2003, Nick Jr. Family Magazine Best Books of the Year 2003, and various state award reading lists.

As a writing teacher, Darcy is in demand nationwide to teach her Novel Revision Retreat. Her books about writing or teaching writing include Novel Metamorphosis: Uncommon Ways to Revise (Mims House) and Paper Lightning: Prewriting Activities to Spark Creativity (Cottonwood Press).  Darcy is the 2007 recipient of the Arkansas Governor’s Arts Awards, Individual Artist Award for her work in children’s literature. Forthcoming titles include Prairie Storm (Sylvan Dell, 2011) and Desert Baths (Sylvan Dell, 2012).