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International Literature Book #1

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Fox, Mem. Possum magic. Illustrated by Julie Vivas. Hong Kong; Harcourt Brace & Company, 1983. ISBN: 0-15-200572-2.

 

Possum Magic is a picture book for children that will take them on a magical culinary tour of Australia.  The plot centers on two possums, Hush and Grandma Poss, that set out to find the antidote to return hush to his normal colors. 

After having so much fun, Hush, finally gets tired of being invisible and wants to recover his normal colors.  Grandma Poss looks for the antidote in all her books, but could not find it.  She remembers it’s a human food.  Therefore, they set out on a journey through Australia in which they stop in different cities to eat and enjoy different traditional human food, and gradually Hush returns to his normal self.

Even without reading the story, just by looking at the illustrations, the reader is able to understand that the possums and the other animals of the Australian bush are having all kinds of fun.  The colorful illustrations are full of action and adventure giving children ages 3 through 8 a realistic picture of the animals that exist in the Australian bush as well as the different colors of people living in the cities.  Children will enjoy the use of stars and airbrush designs that will lead them into this magical experience. 

The characters are very realistic, yet they show humanlike emotions.  For example, in the illustration where Grandma Poss is looking for the answer in her magic books, her expression shows that she is worried about not being able to find the antidote there.  On the other hand, we can see her expression of jubilation when she first saw Hush’s tail after she ate a Vegemite sandwich. 

The story sends the message that all answers may be found in books, but that it is more exiting to go on the adventure of finding the answer for ourselves.

The book is intended for children of Australia who recognize the names of all the animals that exist in the bush.  This could be a drawback for children from other parts of the world who do not recognize the names of the animals. 

The names identifying the animals could have been included in the glossary along the culinary names.  It was an excellent idea for the author to include a map and the illustrations of the different food. These can be used as part of a thematic unit or a lesson in the lower elementary grades.

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