Otherwise Known As Possum
by: Maria D. Laso
Published by:Scholastic Audio Books
Genres:Middle Grade, Southern Fiction, Historical Fiction
Possum Porter has had it with change. First Mama and baby died, leaving a hole nothing can fill. And now, instead of trying to return to some kind of normal, Daddy's sending Possum to school. A real school, where you have to wear SHOES. Where some Yankee teacher will try to erase all the useful things Mama taught Possum during their lessons at home.
So Possum comes up with a plan. If she can prove that she already knows everything worth knowing, Daddy will let her quit school and stay where she belongs. She won't have to deal with snooty classmates, or worry about tarnishing Mama's memory.
But unfortunately, Possum doesn't shoot to the top of the class like she expected. Even worse, the unmarried Yankee teacher seems to have her eyes on someone . . . Possum's Daddy. With time running out, Possum decides to do something drastic to get away from school-and get Daddy out of Ms. Arthington's clutches-or risk losing everything that's keeping her broken heart glued together.
‘Otherwise Known as Possum’ is a middle-grade historical fiction novel. The story takes place in the deep south during at the height of the great depression. The titular character, Possum Porter’s, mother and baby brother recently died in childbirth. Adding to Possum’s grief, her father decides to send her to the town school (up until then she had been homeschooled). Possum’s goals become to show her daddy that she is too smart for school and to keep her teacher, Ms. Arthington, away from her father.
‘Otherwise Known as Possum’ reminded me a lot of ‘Little House on the Prairie.’ There were major differences such as the setting and time period. However,the story just had the ‘Little House ‘feel to me. There were also obvious similarities such as ‘Mary Grace’ being the daughter of the town store owner and she constantly teases ‘Possum’. Also, the town Possum lived in had a ‘Walnut Grove’ type of atmosphere.
What I Loved…
I think that historical fiction middle-grade books are very important. In today’s time, where kids spend their time glued to devises, it’s important for them to take glimpses into the past. One of the best ways to do this is by reading a great historical fiction book. I liked the way infant and maternal loss in child-birth is addressed in the story. We take for granted how lucky we are that death during childbirth is relatively uncommon today. It is a super heartbreaking subject and I think that it was well handled in this book.
I also loved the special relationship that Possum had with her dog ‘Traveler’. Pets are important part of kids lives and I think Possum’s love for ‘Traveler’ was very endearing.
This novel also addressed other important topics such as bullying, mental illness, politics, and poverty. All of these subjects were handled well.
What Left Me Wanting More…
The biggest issue I had with the story was that although ‘Possum’ was sweet, endearing, and very relatable, she came across as somewhat stereotypical of someone from the deep south or Appalachia. This was especially clear in the number of metaphors used in her spoken and mental dialogue. Practically every page contained one or more ‘like’ metaphor.
My Final Verdict..
‘Otherwise Know as Possum’ is an interesting and unique story about an eleven year old protagonist who is grieving the death of her mother and baby brother. The story takes on many timely topics and handled them well. I think it should be required reading for todays middle-schoolers.However, it is a beautiful book for readers of all ages.
* I was hoping to read more from the author, Maria D. Las as ‘Otherwise Known as Possum’ was an amazing début novel. However, the author’s husband wrote an epilogue explaining that sadly the author passed away shortly after finishing this novel.