Wednesday 27 November 2013

Possum Magic by Mem Fox & Julie Vivas

The inaugural AusReading Month would not be complete without featuring this modern day children's classic.

Possum Magic features Hush and Grandma Poss living in the Australian bush. Grandma Poss is worried about the dangers the other animals pose to Hush, so she makes her invisible.
It seems like a great idea to start with, but then Hush wants to be visible again...and Grandma Poss doesn't know how to do that.

The book then follows their adventure to make Hush visible again.

As it turns out, Hush needs traditional Aussie food to be visible. Little by little, body part by body part, she becomes visible again as she eats a Vegemite sandwich, a lamington, an Anzac biscuit, a piece of pavlova etc.

Julie Vivas' illustrations have a nostalgic feel to them - the animals are sweetly and affectionately drawn with muted colours and attention to detail.

Over three million copies of Possum Magic have been sold since 1983.

It was one of the first books I bought during my teaching training years. I loved it. I was so proud of this great Australian picture book and couldn't wait to share it with my classes. I imagined creating fabulous lessons that combined cooking the food in the book and nature studies around the animals featured inside.

But it never happened.

Every time I tried reading the book to a class, it fell flat.
And at some point I stopped trying.

I developed two theories about this.

One is the nostalgia factor. The book appeals to adults more than children. It has won awards. Every child in Australia gets given a copy at birth.  But most 5 years old don't give a hoot about any of that.

These books might work one-on-one as a quiet, bedtime story, but they don't work for a preschool teacher. Or at least, they have never worked for this (ex) preschool teacher.

Theory two is that because every child gets this book at birth, they've had it read to them soooooo many times by their parents that by the time they get to preschool, they're over it!

Either way, Possum Magic is an Aussie icon, a modern day classic that celebrates our native flora, fauna and foods.
And in my heart of hearts, I still love it too.


  1. Anonymous29/11/13

    It definitely holds a strong place in my heart, and the nostalgia value goes a long way - but I did love this book as a child. I don't know whether it was ever read out to my class, any class, but I can't remember any books read to me in primary school, sadly. I like theory 2. :)

    I wonder how much of the falling-flat when you tried it in class comes from the strength of your own feelings about the book? Like, I know when I try to share something I love that I'm setting myself up for failure, because my audience hasn't experienced it the way I have and I'm trying to infect them with my feelings rather than subtly give them a chance to build their own experience. And of course the disappointment when my expectations aren't met! It's easier with a book you're new to, isn't it, one you can explore and get to know alongside them.

    Very thought-provoking, Brona, I hadn't thought about it like this before!

    1. I've also had an a-ha since writing this that maybe the timing was a bigger factor than I originally thought.
      My early readings to classes were during my teaching pracs and first couple of years of teaching when I was new to the craft.
      I've never tried to read it to a group now that I'm vastly more experienced :-)

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply Shannon

  2. Definitely a classic. Can't believe it's 30 years old. I now feel very old. ;-)


This blog has now moved to Wordpress.
Please visit This Reading Life to comment.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.