Groundhog Night: Shubenacadie Sam’s Shadow by Doretta Groenendyk

As a children’s book author, Groundhog Night: Shubenacadie Sam’s Shadow grabbed my attention for more than one reason. Why, you ask? The stunning cover art by the book’s author and illustrator, Doretta Groenendyk, for one. Both the front and back cover tell a story, in and of themselves. I know, without reading the words, that this book is about a pleasant-faced brown critter, not too big and not too small, who is out on a wintery starlit night, with snowflakes gently falling. He’s standing on a snow-covered rolling hillside, under a glowing crescent moon. Then this book grabbed my attention again: the title. What is “Shubenacadie” and how is it pronounced?

Shubenacadie Wildlife Park is referenced on the book’s back cover, but I had to first find out how the word is pronounced. (I can almost hear the rollicking laughter from Atlantic Canada tumbling westward!) Google brought me straight to the Park website, with the pronunciation written clearly, ready for me to practice out loud. “Shoo-ben-ack-a-dee”. This is a huge park, just 45 minutes from Halifax’s city centre. From the book’s back cover: “For almost 70 years, Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park has served as a beacon to Nova Scotia parents and their children. The 40 hectare park is home to more than 50 species of mammals and birds.”  This is starting to all fall into place. No question: I was ready to pick up this picture book and like the book’s main character, investigate. Let’s take a closer look at Groundhog Night: Shubenacadie Sam’s Shadow by Doretta Groenendyk.

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The critter on the cover is a charming groundhog named Shubenacadie Sam. He is “Shubenacadie Wildlife Park’s most famous resident… [and he] is about to make a discovery. What Sam is about to find out is that other animals have shadows, too.”  Groundhog Day in Canada is always on February 2.  On this day every year, when the groundhog ventures out of its burrow, we humans watch.  If we can see his shadow, we have six more weeks of winter, or if no shadow, we can prepare immediately for spring. Whether Sam sees his shadow is not the only question we encounter in Groundhog Night by Doretta Groenendyk. On this Groundhog Day Eve, Sam, who cannot get to sleep, sets off on a solo adventure to see which animals also have shadows. He is surprised by what he discovers. A nighttime forest is an interesting place for an inquisitive rodent. Sam finds that there are many shadows, tracks in the snow, sounds, and smells, as well as remnants from others, particularly the skunk!

Groundhog Night appeals to our human senses, our curiosity, and the enchantment of imagination. It is a rich and captivating tale, told with gentleness in both words and pictures, that makes the reader slow down and notice the abundance of simple gifts. In Groundhog Night, Sam’s innocence and freshness steal my heart. This story of discovery has me sharing in Sam’s wonder as I follow him into his night-time world and become lost in his musings. “As clouds drift past the moon, the shadows vanish. Without light there is no shadow. Without winter, there is no spring. Will there be light tomorrow morning? Is spring near?” At the end of the story, the cover closes, and I give silent thanks to Doretta Groenendyk. Her abundant talent has made me a fan and I can’t wait to search out more from her. The story and pictures complement perfectly, and Groundhog Night will hold both adults and children spellbound within its aura. There is no greater feat for a children’s author than to capture and hold all ages with her story.  Groundhog Night: Shubenacadie Sam’s Shadow by Doretta Groenendyk does this, in spades.

Doretta Groenendyk is the author of 16 books and is one of Canada’s most beloved children’s artists and storytellers. She is a graduate of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and her paintings hang in galleries across the country.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc (Sept. 20 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 28 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1772761788
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1772761788
Managing Editor

TMR’s Managing Editor Carrie Stanton has a BA in Political Science from the University of Calgary. She is the author of The Jewel and Beast Bot, and picture books, Emmie and the Fierce Dragon and The Gardener. Carrie loves to write stories that grow wings and transport readers everywhere.  She reads and enjoys stories from every genre.

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