Friday, May 19, 2023

A Sweet Book about a ... Skunk?

If You Wake a Skunk 
by Carol Doeringer; illus. by Florence Weiser
32 pages; ages 5-8
Sleeping Bear Press, 2023   

theme: animals, nature, communication

Shhh. Tiptoe by. Don’t make a peep.

If you can sneak by quietly, you won’t wake the skunk (who’s sleeping in a cozy spot right behind that tree stump). What? You want to take a peek? You sneezed? 

Using humor and rhyme, Carol Doeringer introduces readers to the behavior of a spotted skunk. They stomp and hiss and do handstands! Skunks use so many ways to communicate their irritation at being woken from a nap, and their intent to share their special perfume. Wise readers will take these warnings to heart.

What I like about this book: The rhyming text is fun, and Carol has tucked lots of alliteration in there as well: “Silly you, still standing there.” “steady stare.” “twitchy tail” – okay, that last is a serious sign we should skedaddle. The book is also addressed to the reader, so it feels as though someone is talking to you, offering advice, and waving their arms in warning: Don’t Wake the Skunk! And there’s back matter about skunks and their defense plus fun facts.

I reached out to Carol the other day and asked: how did If you Wake a Skunk come about?

photo by Betsy Michele
Carol: In intended to write about the striped skunk, which was my – and probably many of our – default image of a skunk. At first, it was just a few stanzas to complete an assignment in Renee LaTulippe's Lyrical Language Lab. I decided to write a mini cautionary tale about the signals skunks give before spraying, using the second person point of view. I giggled as I wrote, recalling how many times I had read The Monster at the End of this Book when my kids were little.  

Me: I remember reading that book, too. But waking up a skunk seems scarier than Grover hiding on the last page! And your book is nonfiction. That took a bit of research, right?

Carol: When I decided to turn my few stanzas into a picture book, my research began in earnest. Reports of the skunk's warning signs sequence varied, so I read widely. That's when I stumbled upon a totally new-to-me skunk, the spotted skunk. Once I discovered this relatively little-known creature, I realized it just had to be the star of the book. First, it delivers much of its warning routine while in an adorable, acrobatic handstand. Second, the Eastern Spotted Skunk is a species considered vulnerable, and in some states is listed as endangered. The handstand routine meant there would be wonderful visuals for the illustrator to play with, and as a nature nerd, I became excited at the thought of introducing kids to the idea that there's more than one kind of skunk.  I didn't end up highlighting the spotted skunk's conservation status in the story or back matter, but I'm fully intending to develop school presentations that bring that into the discussion. 

Me: Do you have any skunk events scheduled?

Carol: In June I'm scheduled to spend a full day with a skunk rescue organization, where I'll film rescue and rehab work with striped skunks, mostly very young ones. I'm told there may be as many as 50 skunks on hand – what a visual that might end up being!  I'll be aiming for footage and interview clips with the rescue staff, working toward getting kids to think about why skunks – with their undeserved bad rap – deserve a place on the planet and to be helped when in trouble. I'll also make a video for the rescue organization, something they can use for fundraising or whatever they like.

Me: I can’t wait to see where that leads. Meanwhile, let’s explore some activities…

Beyond the Books:

Check out Carol’s book trailer over at her blog, Tales from a West Michigan Wood.  

How are you at skunk communication? Can you hiss, stare, and stomp your feet? What about doing a handstand? 

Learn more about eastern spotted skunks. Here’s one resource from the Missouri Department of Conservation

Carol Doeringer is a member of #STEAMTeam2023. You can find out more about her at her website at   

Today we’re joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.


  1. Sue, it was great fun sharing the story behind my book with you. Thank you for helping to get the word out about the book, and especially about the little-known spotted skunk that kids should know about!

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on writing. Have fun with the rescue skunks.