Appleblossom the Possum
Holly Goldberg Sloan
Gary Rosen, Illustrator
Dial, 2015 274 pgs.
Appleblossom is born the runt of thirteen possum babies. Being Marsupials, Appleblossom and her siblings live in Mama's pouch until they are ready to face the world. Since Mama is a progressive possum, she allows each possum to chose their own names, only they must begin with the letter "A" since this is her first litter. At last the baby possums emerge from the pouch and the real life training begins. Mama's teaching relies heavily on drama coaching (playing dead, etc,) and safety rules. Before Appleblossom is ready, Mama sets her little ones out on their own. For a while Appleblossom sticks close to brothers Amlet and Antonio, but eventually she is distracted by a "monster", who is in reality a little girl named Izzy. Izzy is very lonely and is desperate for a pet to become her best friend. So far, relations with her dog have been less than satisfying. After a disastrous fall through the chimney Appleblossom is in Izzy's house and Izzy is determined to keep her as a pet. Some very funny scenes ensue, involving an ill-fated bottle of shampoo and a Paddington coat, until Appleblossom is ready to return to the wild. But how to escape Izzy's house? Meanwhile, Amlet and Antonio are looking for help to rescue their lost sister. Help arrives in a very unexpected place: estranged father Big Poss. Big Poss leads the boys to the big city in search of their mother, who will help them rescue Appleblossom and save the day.
I am a big fan of Holly Goldberg Sloan Counting by Sevens was my favorite book of 2013. Appleblossom the Possum is a very different book. I was expecting another heart-felt realistic story. Instead I got a very funny animal-fantasy adventure for a younger audience. Even though it was not what I was expecting, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Appleblossum the Possum is a great choice for fans of the Humphrey books by Birney. Children ready for longer chapter books, but not ready for anything too challenging will be the target audience. The chapters are short, the margins wide and the print is large. The action never stops and the book is genuinely funny. Puns abound and subtle theatrical jokes cracked me up. Big Poss is a great character, somewhat stealing the show. Even though there are a lot of Possums to keep straight, the main characters have distinct personalities and become easily identifiable. The bumbling dog Columbo provides even more comic relief and the humor and action never stop. Sweet, cartoon-like illustrations, contributed by Gary Rosen, add to the story and will help to allure readers. Though books about all kinds of animals exist for children, this is the first non-picture book I can think of featuring possums. Sloan camouflages possum facts throughout the book and I actually learned something about these creatures, who are the only marsupials in North America, and made me a bit more sympathetic to them. Maybe I won't scream when I see the guy who lives under my shed crawl out as I pull my car into the driveway at night. No, I don't think I'm that evolved yet. This title stands alone, but could easily turn into a future series following further adventures of Appleblossom and her family.