Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Possum Magic by Mem Fox illustrated by Julie Vivas

Last week I needed to empty all my home bookshelves so I could install some new ones.  My book collection continues to expand no matter how hard I try to exercise some restraint and no matter how often I try to cull older books ... I simply have too many favourites.

Since my last blog post was about an Australian picture book I thought I should also mention one of the most famous Australian picture books of all time Possum Magic by Mem Fox.  I remember first reading this book in 1984 not long after it was published.  In 1994 I visited a remote Hutterite community in Alberta and I gave the teacher and children a copy of this book after I read it aloud. I wonder what these children who were living such different and strict lives made of all the wonders in this book – the animals, the food, the magic!

Hush is in danger from snakes in the Australian bush so her grandma kindly makes her invisible. This works well in terms of safety but while little Hush does have some terrific adventures there comes a day when she would like to be visible again.  Grandma Poss hunts through all her magic books but she cannot find the right magic.  “There was magic for thin and magic for fat, and magic for tall and magic for small but the magic she was looking for wasn’t there at all.”  Hush reassures her Grandma that she does not mind staying invisible “but in her heart of hearts she did.” The illustration on this page by the wonderful Julie Vivas is so poignant and sad. Luckily Grandma Poss is not one to give up.  She knows the magic has something to do with food and so the two embark on a huge journey around Australia sampling all manner of exotic foods in the hope they will stumble upon the right formula.  Hush eats Lamingtons, Minties, Anzac Biscuits, Vegemite and Pavlova. 

In 2004 I attended a huge 21st Birthday party for Possum Magic and the celebration included all the foods found in the books.  The Lamingtons were bought into the enormous hall on piled high like pyramids and carried from each corner by chefs complete with those fabulous tall white hats.  It is a scene I will always remember.  Our tables were decorated with gum leaves and Minites and of course we all sang Happy Birthday.  Now Possum Magic is about to turn 30!  There are heaps of things to explore on the web site.  You can see the illustrations and hear Mem herself read this book here. Finally here are some cross curricula teaching notes.

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