Monday, September 15, 2008

International: Possum Magic

Fox, Mem. 1983. Possum Magic. Illus. by Julie Vivas. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. ISBN: 9780152632243.

Deep in the Australian bush, Grandma Poss uses bush magic to change fellow animals different colors, sizes and even makes a dingo smile. To protect her from snakes, Grandma Poss made young possum Hush invisible. Hush had fun being invisible, but she soon wanted see herself again. However, Grandma Poss could not find the magic needed in any of her books. Finally, one night she realizes that it was “people food” instead of possum food that was needed to make Hush visible. Traveling all over Australia, the two possums find popular Australian food that will reverse the possum magic.

The combination of author Mem Fox’s text and illustrator Julie Vivas’ artwork truly makes Possum Magic a delightfully charming book. The narrative is kept to one paragraph per double-spread page that allows the colorful watercolor vignettes to further to tell the story. Viva's use of colors and methods of painting, such as splattering the paint to imitate the magic that Grandma Poss uses on the animals, is adds to the great effect that the give to the overall story. The depictions of all the animals and the sceneries are delightful and portray the personalities and emotions of the animals. In particular Grandma Poss and Hush are wonderful. Grandma Poss wears a purple apron with yellow stars, colorful striped slippers and a pair of glasses on her long nose. Children will love seeing how Hush is illustrated while invisible yet they can see her outline of her fuzzy body.

Set deep in the brush then around the country to famous cities to try popular Australian food, the story wonderful illustrates the culture. The illustrations of the animals (dingoes, wombats, emus, koalas, and kangaroos), vegetation, food, though slightly abstract due to the medium of watercolor, are accurate in depiction. The food plays a vital role in the story as does the cities that Grandma Poss and Hush find them in. Through the book and with the food glossary and map at the end of the book, young readers will learn the names of cities Adelaide, Melbourne Sydney, Brisbane, Darwin, Perth and Hobert and associate the food and sweets Anzac biscuits, pumpkin scones, Monray, Minities, Vegemite, Pavlova and Lamington not only with the country but with the cities that Grandma Poss and Hush find them in.

Through a fun story of magic, travel, colorful illustrations, and a introduction of Australian food and cities, Possum Magic is a perfect addition to any home, school, and public library.

Ages 5-7. This agreeable tale from down under is peppered with “Australia-isms,” but there is a zest to the story that transcends the language barrier (a brief glossary is provided at the conclusion). The stars of the story are two opossums, Hush and her grandmother. To keep hush safe, Grandma Poss turns Hush invisible, which is fine until the day Hush decides she’d like to see herself. Unfortunately, Grandma Poss doesn’t quite remember how to reverse the spell; she is only sure that it has something to do with “people food.” Eating Anzac biscuits in Adelaide and pumpkin scones in Brisban doesn’t work, but a vegemite sandwich causes Hush’s tail to appear while pavlova (meringue with fruits and whipped cream) and lamington (sponge cake) bring the rest of her body forth. A fully materialized Hush dances with Grandma, and every year on her birthday she makes a meal of the three foods that keep her visible. The art captures the experience of being invisible as an “unseen,” outlined Hush slides down a kangaroo’s back and is almost squashed by a koala. Vivas’ eminently likeable pictures, featuring soft watercolors that spill across the pages, are striking standouts against the expanse of the white backgrounds. Fun for individual readers or as a supplement to unites on Australia. An appended map traces Hush’s journeys around her continent. IC. Opossums Fiction / Animal Fiction / Australia Fiction [OCLC]. December 01, 1987.

PreSchool-Grade 2 Grandma Poss uses bush magic to make Hush invisible, but when Hush wants to see herself again, Grandma can't remember which particular Australian food is needed to reverse the spell. Traveling around the continent in search of an antidote, Grandma and Hush sample Anzac biscuits, mornay, vegemite, and pavlova until the right delicacy is found. Although the characters, locales, and vocabulary are thoroughly Australian, Possum Magic has universal appeal. Fox chooses her words carefully, making readers believe that certain foods just might be magical. Vivas uses a variety of techniques, including splatter painting and washes to create full- and double-page watercolor illustrations which complement the text and will entrance readers. A perfect choice for storytimes, but also useful for curriculum enrichment, thanks to a simplified map and glossary. Jeanette Larson, Mesquite Public Library, Tex.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. December 01, 1987.

*Read more books by Australian author Mem Fox like Hunwick’s Egg, Koala Lou, and Wombat Divine.
*Have the readers make and try the foods that Grandma Poss and Hush did in the book.

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