How Chipmunk Got his Stripes.

Story Synopsis and Questions: “How Chipmunk Got his Stripes.”

The narrative by Bruchac (2003) is set in the forest during the autumn and features a large and strong bear, and a small but cheeky Brown Squirrel as its main characters. The Bear is a braggart who is keen to let all animals be aware of his traits. Brown Squirrel is a mischievous animal who cannot stand the Bear’s braggadocio. Their contrasting traits of pride and mischief set the stage for an interesting tale, which highlights the evils of bragging and teasing, in a narration that is strengthen by vivid graphical illustrations.

At the start of the narrative, the reader is introduced to the bear who is walking around bragging about his size, strength and vocal capabilities (Bruchac, 2003). The bear does not stop at the description of his qualities but goes ahead to claim that he can do anything. The Brown Squirrel enters the scene at this stage, challenging the Bear that if his claim that he can do anything were true, he ought to command the sun not to rise the following morning (Bruchac, 2003). Despite not having done such a feat before, the bear is not keen to accept defeat at the hands of a small squirrel and thus takes up the challenge. What follows is a night of back and forth with the bear chanting that “The sun will not come up, hummph” and the squirrel responding that “The sun is going to rise, oooh” (Bruchac, 2003). This attracts curious animals who are keen to find out who will be right. The squirrel wins this round, since the sun rises as usual the following morning. Not being one to enjoy his ‘win’ silently, Brown Squirrel taunts the Bear calling him stupid, foolish and silly. This annoys the bear who grasps the squirrel under his claws ready to eat him, but the squirrel promises to apologize if the bear releases him. However, on his release, the squirrel does not apologize but runs away. The bear chases and manages to catch up with him but the squirrel manages to escape albeit with scratches on his back. After healing, the scratches become the long, black stripes that characterize the modern Chipmunk.

Introduction to new Vocabulary

When teaching children at elementary level, the following vocabulary could be explained using the graphics that are represented in the story, the story’s narration, and other teaching aids.

Bear – a big black animal that lives in the forest

Squirrel – a small animal that lives in or on the ground

Chipmunk – Striped squirrel

Claws – the structures at the end of the bear’s toes

Sun – what brought the light the following day

Black – color of the bear

Brown – color of the squirrel before tricking the bear

Brag – behavior of the bear that encourages the squirrel to challenge him

Tease – behavior of the squirrel that encourages the bear to take his challenge and the squirrel’s behavior after the sun rises the following day

Anger – behavior of the bear after the squirrel teases him

Trick – behavior of the squirrel that leads to the bear releasing him

Scratch – marks that the bear makes on the skin of the squirrel as the squirrel escapes

Stripes – black lines that appear on the squirrel’s body after the scratches heal

Questions for the Reading

Level Pre-reading Questions Questions during reading Post-reading Questions
  1. What animals does the story talk about?
  1. What did the squirrel challenge the bear to do?
  2. What did the bear do after the squirrel challenged him?
  3. What do you think the bear did after the squirrel challenged him?
  1. How did the squirrel trick the bear
  1. Why did the other animals gather around?
  2. Why did the bear threaten to eat Brown Squirrel?
  1. How did the Chipmunk get the stripes according to the story?
  1. What does the story teach us?




Bruchac, J. (2003). How Chipmunk Got his Stripes: A Tale of Bragging and Teasing. St. Louis, MO: Turtleback Books.

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