Playing possum

Jennifer Black Reinhardt, 1963-

Book - 2020

Possums play dead when threatened so Alfred, an unusually nervous possum, avoids attention and even friendship until he meets Sofia, an armadillo who curls into a ball when nervous. Includes facts about the unusual defense mechanisms of animals pictured in the book.

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jE/Reinhard
1 / 2 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
Children's Room jE/Reinhard Due Sep 4, 2022
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Subjects
Genres
Fiction
Picture books
Published
Boston ; New York : Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt [2020]
Language
English
Physical Description
32 unnumbered pages : color illustrations ; 29 cm
ISBN
9781328782700
1328782700
Main Author
Jennifer Black Reinhardt, 1963- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Alfred, a possum, is scared of everything—speaking in class, playing sports, you name it. Worst of all, when he feels nervous or frightened, he freezes, falls over, and plays dead. Unfortunately, no one wants to play with a petrified possum, so making friends has been a challenge. Things change for the better when an armadillo named Sophia comes along. Sophia is a nervous animal too, freezing and rolling into a ball when her nerves get worked up. Alfred and Sophia understand each other's stress reactions and become good friends, sticking around if one has a freezing spell, which proves a great comfort. They also befriend other animals with bad nerves (e.g., a turtle, a fainting goat, and a skunk) by treating them with kindness and patience. Reinhardt has created a great story of acceptance, friendship, identity, and empathy that will reassure young readers dealing with their own anxieties. The semi-realistic illustrations are endearing and often funny, softly rendered in watercolor, ink, colored pencil, and collage. End matter points out the animals featured in the book that have distinctive self-preservation instincts. Preschool-Grade 2. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In this mellow story exploring friendship and self-understanding, Alfred the opossum is perpetually nervous, so he often instinctively "freezes and plays dead." Since he deems making friends "too terrifying to contemplate," the marsupial is lonely, until, while browsing an outdoor bookshelf, he notices Sophia the armadillo doing the same, and—in one of the story's wittier pictures—he immediately freezes, prone on the ground, atop a book titled Nothing to Fear. Similarly startled, Sophia automatically curls up into a ball, and after the two have "unfroze" and "unfurled," they recognize their common bond. Reinhardt (Blue Ethel) expands the scope of her tale as the protagonists' newfound camaraderie and mutual support awakens a broader empathy, driving them to reach out to their fellow skittish woodland creatures. As a result, the other characters (including a chameleon, porcupine, skunk, and tortoise) eschew their isolating defense mechanisms and enjoy time together. The author's minimal text leaves the primary storytelling role to her gently dappled, luminous mixed-media art, which features springtime hues and an anthropomorphized cast. Notes on the spotlighted animals' self-protective behaviors cap this sensitive tale. Ages 4–7. Agent: Marietta Zacker, Gallt & Zacker Literary. (July) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

PreS-Gr 1— Alfred, an opossum, plays dead anytime he's the center of attention. His nervousness contributes to his friendlessness; until he meets Sofia, an armadillo who rolls into a ball when scared. The two become best friends. Together, they make it their mission to reach out to other nervous animals with kindness, patience, understanding, and forgiveness. Reinhardt tells this story in a linear fashion, making the plot line and character development easy to follow. Rather than focusing on the scary aspects of meeting someone new or being the center of attention, the humorous elements of an animals' defense mechanism are highlighted. For instance, Sofia uses Alfred's paralyzed, outstretched hands for her yarn while she waits for him to unfreeze. The anthropomorphized animals wear clothes, such as beribboned straw hats and denim overalls, as they caper about on two feet through richly toned watercolor landscapes filled with flowers and curlicues. Ink and colored pencil are overlaid to bring out details. An author's note separates fact and fiction when it comes to defense mechanisms in the animal world. A glossary provides information about featured species. VERDICT An additional purchase for libraries needing to expand their social-emotional learning picture book collection.—Amy Seto Forrester, Denver P.L. Copyright 2020 School Library Journal.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Possums play dead when threatened so Alfred, an unusually nervous possum, avoids attention and even friendship until he meets Sofia, an armadillo who curls into a ball when nervous. Includes facts about the unusual defense mechanisms of animals pictured in the book.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Meeting strangers makes shy possum Alfred anxious, and he plays dead. So he has trouble making friends—until Sophia the armadillo reveals that when she gets anxious, she rolls up in a ball. A witty friendship tale inspired by animal behavior. In this winsome tale, Alfred, who plays dead, and Sophia, who rolls up in a ball, stand in for shy or anxious humans whose discomfort keeps them from fitting in. Jennifer Black Reinhardt has cast animals with defense mechanisms as characters to tell an imaginative, endearing story about learning to make friends by mastering fear and shyness. Alfred and Sofia open up to each other and go on to help other creatures who have social difficulties by practicing patience, forgiveness, and friendship—tools for overcoming the barriers that keep us from connecting with others. An author’s note lists real animals and their defensive behaviors.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Meeting strangers makes shy possum Alfred anxious, and he plays dead. So he has trouble making friends'until Sophia the armadillo reveals that when she gets anxious, she rolls up in a ball. A witty friendship tale inspired by animal behavior.  

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Meeting strangers makes shy possum Alfred anxious, and he plays dead. So he has trouble making friends—until Sophia the armadillo reveals that when she gets anxious, she rolls up in a ball. A witty friendship tale inspired by animal behavior. In this winsome tale, Alfred, who plays dead, and Sophia, who rolls up in a ball, stand in for shy or anxious humans whose discomfort keeps them from fitting in. Jennifer Black Reinhardt has cast animals with defense mechanisms as characters to tell an imaginative, endearing story about learning to make friends by mastering fear and shyness. Alfred and Sofia open up to each other and go on to help other creatures who have social difficulties by practicing patience, forgiveness, and friendship—tools for overcoming the barriers that keep us from connecting with others. An author’s note lists real animals and their defensive behaviors.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

Meeting strangers makes shy possum Alfred anxious, and he plays dead. So he has trouble making friends'until Sophia the armadillo reveals that when she gets anxious, she rolls up in a ball. A witty friendship tale inspired by animal behavior. In this winsome tale, Alfred, who plays dead, and Sophia, who rolls up in a ball, stand in for shy or anxious humans whose discomfort keeps them from fitting in. Jennifer Black Reinhardt has cast animals with defense mechanisms as characters to tell an imaginative, endearing story about learning to make friends by mastering fear and shyness. Alfred and Sofia open up to each other and go on to help other creatures who have social difficulties by practicing patience, forgiveness, and friendship'tools for overcoming the barriers that keep us from connecting with others. An author's note lists real animals and their defensive behaviors.

Review by Publisher Summary 6

Meeting strangers makes shy possum Alfred anxious, and he plays dead. So he has trouble making friends—until Sophia the armadillo reveals that when she gets anxious, she rolls up in a ball. A witty friendship tale inspired by animal behavior.