Appleblossom the Possum

by Holly Goldberg Sloan (2015)

A Sweet Spot selection.

Appleblossom is the smallest of her mama’s first batch of babies, so she and her siblings all have A names – Abdul, Alisa, Augusta, Atticus and so on. Mama Possum is busy teaching her babies the finer points of a life on the stage, complete with Shakespearean dialogue and courtly dancing.

Consider this scene as Appleblossom’s sister, the very dramatic Angie, plays across from Amlet (who wanted to be named Hamlet, but had to have an A-name). An award-winning performance, to save a possum from peril:

She puts her hand to her forehead and moans, “No. No. The drink! Oh, my dear Amlet. The drink, the drink. I am poisoned.” Angie falls to the ground. Her breathing slows to next to nothing. Then her neck stiffens, her arms and legs extend straight out, and her tongue rolls from her mouth.

All of this training is to help the young possums live in a world where their best survival tool is playing dead.

Soon, the babies are expected to venture out on their own and start their new independent lives. But, Appleblossom and her brothers Antonio and Amlet have such a tight bond that they stick together. Together, that is, until Appleblossom tumbles down the chimney and lands in the home of a girl…and her dog. The little possum befriends the girl and avoids the dog, but still yearns to be out in the world with her brothers. With some ingenuity, guile, and help from her family, little Appleblossom finally escapes and returns to her life outside.

Along the way, readers are immersed in Appleblossom’s possum-eye view of the world. What are the three things that Appleblossom is good at? Smelling night-blooming jasmine, watching the bats swirl in the dark sky as they circle the streetlight, and observing the world.

Read to Them’s trivia questions will ensure your students are alert for all fifteen animals Appleblossom knows are nocturnal. And all eight insects Appleblossom can find on a tree branch, including canker worms and red termites.

In the end, Appleblossom learns a valuable lesson about family:

So much of being a possum, she thinks as she drifts off to sleep, is about learning how to act. But being a brother or a sister (if you are lucky enough) is the role of a lifetime.

This delightful tale allows readers and listeners to examine the world from a possum’s point of view where cars, owls, and especially dogs are to be respected and feared. The story will also open up conversations about family, loyalty, and adventure. Gary A. Rosen’s whimsical illustrations ensure that even your youngest listeners will remain engaged and engrossed, making Appleblossom the Possum a charming read aloud for every family.

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