Not a big fan of possums? This middle grade book might just change your mind! Appleblossom the Possum by Holly Goldberg Sloan and illustrated by her husband, Gary A. Rosen, tells the story of Appleblossom, the smallest and most timid of Mama Possum’s first batch of babies.
Being the first, Appleblossom and her 12 siblings’ names all start with “A” (so other family members can tell how these babies fit into the family). And because Mama Possum is a progressive thinker, her babies get to choose their own names. That’s how Appleblossom became Appleblossom the Possum.
Possums are solitary, nocturnal, nomadic marsupials (yes, you learn lots of fun possum facts in this book!). But did you know they are the greatest actors in the animal kingdom? This requires lots of acting lessons and an excellent theater director – luckily, these baby possums have Mama Possum to teach them everything they need to know! In their short time together, Mama Possum teaches her babies how to become great actors on the stage of life, to forage for food, and above all to stay safe.
Appleblossom the Possum may not be a very good actor like her brothers and sisters, but she does know the rules for staying safe – never be seen by day, and avoid people, cars, and especially dogs, at all costs.
Unfortunately, when Appleblossom the Possum makes her own way into the world, she follows her curiosity (instead of the rules) and decides to spy on a human family with a little girl (Izzy) and a dog (Columbo). After Appleblossom accidentally falls down the family’s chimney, it takes all her wits (and acting skills), and the help of Izzy (who decides Appleblossom should be her pet), to survive.
In the meantime, her brothers, Antonio and Amlet (he wanted to be Hamlet, but they were “A” babies), are determined to find a way to save Appleblossom. You’ll have to hang on to your hat as Antonio and Amlet travel across town with Big Poss (their newly found father) to find Mama Possum at a disco (she loves the nightlife!), in hopes that Mama Possum will come up with a plan to save Appleblossom. It will take all of them working together as a family to pull off this epic rescue!
Being theatrically trained, these possums are all excellent storytellers. Mostly told from Appleblossom’s perspective, you also hear from her parents and siblings exactly what it’s like to be a small possum in the world of humans. You’ll hear from Izzy as well. She’s lonely and in need of a friend (Appleblossom enters stage right).
Even though possums are solitary creatures, Appleblossom, Antonio, and Amlet learn the importance of family and of looking out for each other. As Appleblossom says “being a brother or a sister (if you are lucky enough) is the role of a lifetime.”
This is one of my all-time favorite read aloud books. (Check out my other all-time favorite read aloud book here!). It definitely made me see our possum neighbors in a kinder, friendlier light (I even sculpted a little possum after reading this book!).
Actually, a young Appleblossom-in-training made a brief visit to my home. This young thespian made its way into the house via the laundry room (by cat invitation, most likely). The performance was cut short by Max and Leon’s dad with the aid of the one glove he was able to find.
If you get a chance to listen to the audio, it is wonderful. Unsurprisingly, Dustin Hoffman’s narration knocks it out of the park. I heard that it took him a long time to make the recording because he insisted it be perfect – and it is perfect!
Holly Goldberg Sloan is the author of New York Times bestseller Counting by 7s, which was named an ALA Notable Book and an E.B. White Read Aloud Award Honor Book. Her latest book, About the Elephant in the Room (Dial Books), came out March 2, 2021 (ages 10-14). Can’t wait to read it!