Even more than Barbara Brenner's Baltimore Orioles (KR, 1148, J-424), Woodchuck eschews challenging word patterns and reduces the drama of animal birth, mating, and death to a string of affectless, monotonous declarative sentences (""They begin to play. They nibble each other. They wrestle. They roll on their backs""). Reading specialists may find this kind of exercise good reinforcement, and Joan Sandin's whispery-soft, lovably furry pictures tell the story so eloquently, involvingly, that the text is almost unnecessary. But the absence of verbal excitement and variety limits the appeal to the all but the newest easy-reading recruits.