Monday, June 22, 2009

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

Holiday Fun with an Aussie Icon
Recently I hailed Australia's very own Tim Winton and his novel 'Breath' , so I thought it only fair to select one of my all time favourite children's book authors to profile.
Mem Fox is really an icon of the Aussie picture book world and I think most of us would know of and possibly have read 'Possum Magic'. Grandma Poss and little Hush have moved into the hearts of many children and their parents since it was first written in 1978. Did you know that the book was rejected by publishers 9 times before Omnibus books in Adelaide picked it up? The publishers wanted the title changed ( it was originally called 'Hush the invisible mouse') and the main characters went from being mice to the possums we now know and love. The books was finally published in 1983. Since then it has sold a whopping 3.5 million copies world wide. Persistence pays off in the writing world! Mem has now written many other amazing stories for children including 'Where is the Green Sheep?' and 'Boo to a Goose'. 
Find out more at
So, soon as we are all on winter school hols down here, I thought I'd  suggest some great activities that you and your little ones can do with this picture book. I used to love reading this to the children I taught in Hong Kong and the USA to introduce them to some of the great foods we love down here. Not too mention some of the cute and furry wildlife we share this great land with. My kids and I now adore it.
Activities with 'POSSUM MAGIC'
1. Read the book! Don't forget to do the voices and get totally lost in Hush's quest for the right food.
2. Bake the food. Mem's website has many of the recipes for food found in her book, including ANZAC biscuits and Pavlova. Just a funny note on that, when we lived in Denver we tried cooking the pavlova and ended up with a rather flat slab of mixture that never rose to the appropriate fluffy white expectation. Apparently when cooking waaaaay above sea level one needs to adjust recipes, times for cooking and temperature- none of which we did!
1 cup butter
1/2 milk
3 cups SR flour
4 eggs
Beat butter, sugar & eggs. Add milk, then flour and beat well. Bake in a large square cake tin for 45-50 mins (180 C or 350F)
When cold cut into 3 inch squares and cover with icing (frosting)
Icing (Frosting)
1kg (2lbs) of icing sugar & 4 tbl spoons cocoa. Work in 250g (1/4lb) of butter, then slowly add half cup of hot water to thin it. Add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Place bowl with icing mixture over a bowl of hot water to keep runny. With a skewer hold each piece of cake and dip in icing until completely covered all over. the toss it in shredded coconut. Eat. Enjoy!
3. Find out more about possums. Visit your local library for some great non-fiction books.
4. Make your own possum hand puppet. My boys loved this one. It's very easy.  make a paper funnel with card, then draw on eyes (or glue on goggle eyes) on either side of the pointed end of funnel. The make two small ears (cut out round ovals and squeeze in half) and tape to funnel just back from eyes on either side. Then curl piece a thin of paper  around a pencil and stick on for the tail at the back of funnel (or use string or wool) Put funnel over hand and there you have it- a paper possum!
Local Fun with BOOKS
The Queensland State Library is hosting 'The Queen of Colours' a performance for under 8's based on the picture book by Jutta Bauer. The show features painting, shadow puppetry and video projections. It's one from June 30 -July 4. Times: 9:30-11:30am. $8 per person or $35 for 5 tickets. Check it out at

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