A Greyhound, A Groundhog – Wordplay at Its Finest

Okay, everybody, repeat after me:

She sells sea shells at the seashore.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Tongue warmed up? Then you’re ready for Emily Jenkins’ newest book, A Greyhound, A Groundhog, illustrated by Chris Appelhaus (Schwartz & Wade Books).

I haven’t had this much fun reading trying to read a book aloud in a long time. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I should mention Jenkins’ dedication, in which she gives credit to Ruth Krauss and her A Very Special House, for “inspiration and rhythm.”

Note to self:  Watch for great old books at garage sales.

Here’s the publisher’s synopsis:

“When a greyhound meets a groundhog, wordplay and crazy antics ensue. The two animals, much like kids, work themselves into a frenzy as they whirl around and around one another. (Around, round hound. Around, groundhog!) The pace picks up (Around and around and astound and astound!), until they ultimately wear themselves out.”

I was serious about warming up your tongue muscles. This story is a read aloud challenge! Oh, it doesn’t start out that way. The beginning is easy:

A hound. A round hound. [He’s curled up sleeping.]

A greyhound.

Then we meet the groundhog:

A hog. A round hog.

A groundhog.

Art ©Chris Appelhaus

The lines grow in complexity, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. So just when you’re galloping along, getting all full of yourself – “What’s so hard about this?” – you encounter the spread that turns you inside out and is nearly impossible to read right the first time. (I can hear you now, all “Pfft. Bet I could do it.” Ha. I’d love to see/hear you try.)

In short, Jenkins reveals herself a master of wordplay in this one. What a blast it must have been to write! A headache, at times, but a blast nonetheless.

I savored every one of Chris Appelhaus’ watercolor spreads, too. He keeps the focus on the two characters brilliantly, yet you’re totally drawn into their flower-and-butterfly-strewn world. He manages to add a frenetic joy to the characters’ mad around-and-around romp that makes you want to run right after them.

A Greyhound, A Groundhog is gathering starred reviews left and right. Well-deserved!

Let this one serve as a reminder to all of us who WORK to wrestle words into submission for kiddos:  Remember the importance of PLAY!




Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum has been picture book crazy since her 3 kids were little, and especially so after her first was published in 2004 (Stink Soup). Recent titles: Jack Knight's Brave Flight, Where'd My Jo Go?, Frog Boots, How to Grow a Dinosaur, Frankenbunny, If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party, Elwood Bigfoot– Wanted: Birdie Friends!, Teeny Tiny Toady, I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!, and more. Coming in May of 2023: Stinkbird Has a Superpower. She's also the author of many nonfiction books for young readers, as well as an early graphic reader series, Thunder & Cluck. Learn more at http://jillesbaum.com.


  1. Sounds like fun. I’ll have to get a copy and see if I can tackle it.

  2. Sounds like a celebration of words!

  3. Would love to give this a read!

  4. I adore word play and I was born on Groundhog’s Day. I am going to find this book. And Jill, you are os correct, we must fins the play in our work for all to enjoy it. TY for spotlighting this book.

  5. The language and the art of this book just leap off the page!

  6. I love clever word play. I just put in an order at my library and I cant wait to read it.

  7. I’ll look for this one Jill! Sounds so fun to read. Thanks for another great post.

  8. What a tempting write-up! I can’t wait to read the book and hear the giggles from the kiddos!

  9. I saw this on a list of 2017 releases and new from the title how clever it must be! Can’t wait to get my hands on it!

  10. Just read & enjoyed it. It will be a romping read aloud 🙂

  11. How fun! Looking forward to reading it.

  12. I’m so intrigued! I can’t wait to read it! Thanks for the post.

  13. So much fun to read!

  14. My curiosity is piqued! This sounds like a must-read, and I’m up for the challenge of the challenging spread you mentioned. Thank goodness this is library day! I can see if I can check out this book. Wait… Every day is library day.

  15. It’s so dang cute. I just returned from my residency at Hamline MFAC where Emily read and discussed it, and I brought home a copy. Go get it!

  16. Why can’t I think of cool ideas like this?! Sounds fantastic—I must find a copy soon.

  17. This looks so fun and clever! Just put a hold on it. Thanks, Jill.

  18. So fun! I want to read it aloud. I love the soft, painterly illustrations. They have so much warmth and character.

  19. I’ve just read this one; alas, not aloud, as I was by myself in the kids’ section of a bookshop. Even read silently, this is a fun book. Thanks for sharing!

  20. I read this just last week! It’s a ton of fun!

    • I can almost hear your Southernness as I imagine you reading it aloud, Penny. That would make me like it even better. 🙂

  21. What fun this would be to read aloud to preschoolers!

  22. This looks so fabulous, Jill — both in the writing and the illustrations. Thanks for the wonderful introduction!

  23. This book looks terrific — thanks so much for this great post!

  24. Sounds so cute. I’ll have to look for it. Thanks!

  25. At the bookstore, yesterday, I sat with a tall stack of books and sure enough it included A GREYHOUND, A GROUNDHOG. Thank you, Jill, for featuring such a fun, whimsical book filled with wordplay.

  26. You’ve got my curiosity going. I need to read this.

  27. Thank you, Jill! My grandkids and I LOVE word play! Can’t wait to read this one!

  28. This sounds delightful! And I always applaud authors who are able to bounce around categories and levels so seamlessly. I love her MG and YA work and her picture books have been such fun!

  29. I bought We Were Liars for my oldest son, looks like this book will be a blast for my youngest (although I think his older brother and sister will want in). Looks like a fun read!

  30. What fun to play with words. You’re right, reading is silently is completely different that saying the words. Here come the giggles.

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