Happy Groundhog Day! I have always been rather fond of this silly holiday, and my interest in it grew exponentially this week when I discovered this beautiful book. A clever and stunningly illustrated story about forest friends determined to have everyone attend Moose’s upcoming Valentine’s Day party, especially Groundhog, whom they have to first stop from seeing his shadow! Delight in Groundhug Day by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by Christopher Denise, 2017.

A very dapper Moose has grand plans for a Valentine’s Day party in two weeks. While his little friends help him think of all the things they need, they realize that not everyone will be able to come. Tomorrow is Groundhog Day and if Groundhog sees his shadow, he will go back into his hole for 6 weeks! The four brainstorm ideas to keep him from seeing his shadow, but the scheming turns into a huge argument and they lose track of time…

They don’t notice Groundhog approaching his entrance until it is too late. Groundhog sees his shadow and dives back inside. The animals try to coax Groundhog back up, but realize that he is afraid of shadows! Their mission now changes to convince Groundhog that shadows are actually really awesome. Their efforts show empathy and thoughtfulness, meeting Groundhog in his fears. In the end, they have a delightful day, turning Groundhog Day into Groundhug Day!

That illustration above was the first glimpse I had of this book. I saw it a few weeks ago at the Society of Illustrators Original Art exhibit. While I’m not normally a huge fan of digital illustration, I was stunned by the beauty of this piece. I stared at it a long time and then wrote down the book to look up. I was somewhat familiar with Christopher Denise before, but I’m not sure I had ever really looked at his books. I am swiftly remedying that this month.

One of my favorite things about Denise’s illustrations is his lighting, an important aspect of this storyline with shadows. The lighting helps sculpt the scenes and look animated, yet almost real! From Moose’s tall and tiny home, to Groundhog’s cozy hole, to the forest landscape; all these places are fantastically composed and inviting.

Denise’s characters are also ridiculously adorable. I love Moose’s style, but Groundhog’s is probably my favorite with his comfy robe and his elbow-patched blazer and cap!

As usual, I was drawn to this book because of the illustrations, but I was delighted to enjoy the story as well! I love the thoughtfulness of the animals and their determination to include everyone in the festivities. The pace of the story is well-executed, beginning with a predictable concept about two holidays; but twisting into a completely different kind of story about fears and observation and friendship. And the turn at the very end of the story with Bunny is surprising and hilarious.

Though I’m somewhat doubtful about this year’s spring prediction, I’m loving this book that brings February’s two holidays together and is such a beautiful and cute story to enjoy. I hope you can check it out too! Also, let me know any of your favorite Groundhog Day books. I don’t know of very many.