Possum Magic – Mem Fox/Julie Vivas

POINTS: 5 out of 10.

Bechdel: 1 point
Variety of characters: 1 point
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point


This book is frikkin’ great. Not only does it pass the Bechdel with flying colours (the two main characters are both named female characters, who talk throughout the book), but on one of only two pages with humans on them, there is actually a reasonably wide selection of people colours and types! Which, given that the bulk of the story involves animals, is pretty impressive.

On top of those basic metrics, there is so much about this book to love. It has real character. Grandma Poss is a straight up magical old woman, which is one of my favourite fictional archetypes, but she’s not portrayed as a witch. She does magic, yes, “bush magic”, but the portrayal of her is exactly the kind of “wise magical woman” I love to see. Grandma Poss is a crone – smart, fiesty, magical, and kind.

Hush loves being invisible, but when she tires of it and asks her grandmother to turn her back, her Grandma can’t do it. Hush tells her she doesn’t mind, “but in her heart of hearts she did”. This is another thing I love. Hush doesn’t want to make her Grandma feel bad when she doesn’t succeed, so she tells her it’s okay. But in reality she is upset. And Grandma Poss knows that, so they go on a journey to find the answer. This is such a true to life emotional journey – this is what happens when someone you love makes you feel bad. You try to hide it. They try to fix it anyway. The nuance of that is so rooted in love and compassion, and it’s so awesome to see that so simply and effectively addressed in a kids’ book.

These characters are marvelous. The story is marvelous. It’s deeply Aussie, too, so if you live down here in the Antipodes, that may appeal. Though I have to say, in defense of my adopted home, Pavlovas are TOTALLY a Kiwi thing. ;P

Read it. It’s fantastic.

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