How Chipmunk Got His Stripes

by Joseph Bruchac (Author) Ariane Dewey (Illustrator)

How Chipmunk Got His Stripes
Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

When Bear and Brown Squirrel have a disagreement about whether Bear can stop the sun from rising, Brown Squirrel ends up with claw marks on his back and becomes Chipmunk, the striped one.

Bear brags that he can do anything-even stop the sun from rising. Brown Squirrel doesn't believe him, so the two wait all night to see if the sun will rise. Sure enough, the sky reddens and the sun appears. Brown Squirrel is so happy to be right that he teases Bear. What happens when a little brown squirrel teases a big black bear? Brown Squirrel gets stripes and is called chipmunk from that day forward . . .

Joseph and James Bruchac join forces to create this buoyant picture book, based on a Native American folktale. Illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey.

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School Library Journal

Starred Review

Bear struts through the forest, bragging as he goes: "I am Bear. I am the biggest of all the animals. Yes, I am!-I can do anything. Yes, I can!" Little Brown Squirrel elects to challenge him: "Can you tell the sun not to rise tomorrow morning?" Bear accepts the challenge. As the sun sets, he issues his command and the two settle down to see what morning will bring. As the night progresses, the braggart continues to boast, and Squirrel cannot resist teasing. When the sun predictably rises in the morning, Bear is disgruntled and angry, and his taunter foolishly continues to tease. When Bear threatens to eat the little creature, Squirrel makes a desperate dash for his burrow. He is able to escape, but not before Bear has raked his back with his sharp claws. Although the scratches heal, they leave Squirrel with long, pale stripes on his back. He is now Chipmunk, the Striped One. In their introductory authors' notes, the Bruchacs indicate that the story is an amalgam of tales they have heard from Cherokee, Abenaki, and Mohawk sources, and has further been fleshed out through their own telling over the years. The result is polished, cohesive, and energetic. While the story begs to be told, Aruego and Dewey's vibrantly hued trademark watercolors add significantly to the humor. A priority purchase for most collections.

Copyright 2001 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publisher's Weekly

In Bruchac and his son's (When the Chenoo Howls) serviceable retelling of a Native American pourquoi tale, Brown Squirrel challenges prideful Bear to keep the sun from rising. When the sun does rise, and Brown Squirrel teases Bear, Bear threatens to eat Brown Squirrel, and his claw marks transform the fellow into Chipmunk. Though the prose occasionally falters (e.g., "Everyone was happy except for one animal. That animal was Bear" or the advice of Brown Squirrel's grandmother, "It is good to be right about something. But when someone else is wrong, it is not a good idea to tease him"), the dialogue is effective and invites audience participation–especially the repeated phrases with sound effects, as when the quarrelsome pair sit side by side all night chanting: "The sun will not come up, hummph!" and "The sun is going to rise, oooh!" Aruego and Dewey (Antarctica Antics) create lush landscapes, but Bear and Brown Squirrel are uncharacteristically bland, often featuring the same facial expressions repeatedly. Ages 5-8.

Copyright 2001 Publisher’s Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Joseph Bruchac
Joseph Bruchac is an acclaimed Abenaki children's book author. His awards include a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and Honor, the Hope S. Dean Award from the Foundation for Children's Literature for Notable Achievement in Children's Books, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas. His books include Code Talker and Rez Dogs. He lives in Greenfield Center, New York.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Puffin Books
Publication date
April 20, 2003
Picture Puffin Books
BISAC categories
JUV012020 - Juvenile Fiction | Fairy Tales & Folklore | Country & Ethnic - General
Library of Congress categories
Indians of North America
North America
East (U.S.)

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