Possum Summerby Jen K. Blom, Omar Rayyan
Possum Summer is a heartbreaking novel about a girl and her father whose fractious relationship is healed by the hard lessons they learn about love and letting go.Eleven-year-old P (short for Princess, a name she loathes) longs for a pet, but her father insists that all animals on their Oklahoma farm must earn their keep. While he's away on combat duty in Iraq, P
Possum Summer is a heartbreaking novel about a girl and her father whose fractious relationship is healed by the hard lessons they learn about love and letting go.Eleven-year-old P (short for Princess, a name she loathes) longs for a pet, but her father insists that all animals on their Oklahoma farm must earn their keep. While he's away on combat duty in Iraq, P tries to turn his cattle dog into her petwith disastrous results. Then P rescues an orphaned opossum that she names Ike. She hand-feeds the beguiling critter, smuggles him into school, and teaches him to follow her everywhere. But when her father is reported injured, P knows that before he is shipped home, she must betray Ike's trust and force him to survive in the wild.
Eleven-year-old Princess desperately wants a pet, but her father says animals on a farm must earn their keep.
With her dad away in Iraq, her mother busy with work and her older half-sister Monica busy being 16, "P" (which she prefers over Princess) tries to make the cow-herding dog Blackie a pet, but he won't listen to her. When Blackie kills a possum, P finds it was a mother and adopts the surviving baby despite her father's rule. With the help of her best friend Mart, P keeps "Ike" a secret from teachers and family while trying to teach him to be a wild possum (since her wounded father will be home soon). With rabies running rampant in the Oklahoma countryside and catastrophes coming fast and furious, can P do right by her charge and keep the farm ready for her father's return? Blom's debut is a run-of-the-mill wild-animal–as-pet tale, though the deployed-father element makes it plenty relevant today. There's a slight disconnect between the vocabulary used to relate this folksy story and the first-person narrator's difficulties in school and with letter writing, but P is a feisty, honest country gal.
Readers with a hankering for a modern, Midwest animal tale could do worse. (Fiction. 8-11)
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I ordered Possum Summer hoping to find something my six-year-old niece and I could read together that would challenge and delight her and be good for me too. I found all that and more in Possum Summer. I grew up in Oklahoma in around the same area that the book is set. I can say with authority that the author has brought that world to life in a rich blend of perfect evocative description that creates an atmosphere you can completely sink into. The sights,sounds,scents and most of all feelings of place are all brought to vivid life with just enough description. No words are wasted. We see this world through the eyes of Princess, though we'll know her as "P", a young farm girl who's just on the edge of becoming a young woman, and who's trying her best to fill the shoes of her father. You see, her Dad's away in the war. He's a no-nonsense banker turned rancher went into service as a volunteer. While he's away, it's P whom he gives the task of keeping things running. Her mother and big sister just don't have what it takes. We immediately see the strength of this girl, and feel the enormity of her task. At the same time she's very much a young girl. Her determination to be adult and responsible is tested every moment by her natural impulse to play and explore. Most of all she desperately wants a pet; something her father has decided is a frivolity on a working ranch. These conflicting paths all twine together on the very first page, when P finds an orphaned baby possum. Saving it is doing the right thing, but saving it means taking in a pet. She compromises by resolving to help it survive and teach it what it needs to survive on it's own. In other words, she'll help it grow up. This is where things could get sappy (much like my last sentence). But author Jen K. Blom manages to steer us through this story with not one ounce of treacle. What she does give us is plenty of heart-felt emotion, excitement and humor. She also leaves us plenty to think about; situations to think through. She does not ask you to leave your brain at the door, thank you very much. What keeps this book flowing is the masterful characterization of P. She's as flawed as she is strong, and is given a completely defined, unique voice. She's not a blank left for the reader to fill in. Her characterization is a brilliant for the mistakes P is allowed to make as much as for the triumphs she achieves. This is a book of beautiful moments, flashes of action, real emotion and hard decisions. It's not a biography, but the author has clearly poured her soul into it. It is truly a book for children to grow by. I would proudly present this book to my niece to explore on her own if she were P's age. Since she's younger, I'm taking the journey with her. The illustrations are perfect. Simple, lovely, and a bit old fashioned. If you want a clearer description of P's character than I've been able to provide, just look into the eyes of the girl on the cover. Then order the book.
"POSSUM SUMMER" BY JEN K. BLOM (REVIEW) This is a beautiful book about trust, learning to heal and knowing when to let go. This book made me cry, it was so beautifully written and you can't help but fall in love with P and her Possum friend. My 10 year old daughter read the book and she absolutely loved it. She has placed it on the shelf alongside some of her other favorites which include E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web" and "The Trumpet of the Swan". In my opinion this book belongs with the classics! A wonderful read, please don't pass this one up, it's for the young and old! -Kitty Bullard / Great Minds Think Aloud Book Club
Set during the first Gulf War, Possum Summer is the story of a young girl asked by her father to watch over their farm while he's fighting overseas. The weight of this responsibility weighs heavily on her, especially after finding out her dad's been hurt in battle. Methodically she checks their cattle, cares for the chickens, examines the fences, and tends to the working dog, Blackie, whom she's fallen in love with despite her father's warning that a farm has no pets. It's Blackie who sets the story in motion, though, attacking a possum and leaving an orphaned baby that Princess feels obligated to care for. Torn between obeying her father and abandoning the joey, or secretly raising the baby until he is old enough to be set free, P (as she'd rather be known)struggles with the promise she made to her dad. It's inevitable that P will choose to raise the possum, but what isn't foreseeable is the array of help she gets from the most unexpected places and the ingenuity she uses to keep her secret quiet. And when her secret causes the worst to happen, P must be stronger than even her father thinks she can be. Possum Summer manages to convey the beauty of the Oklahoma countryside and lazy summer days of youth with a tension-packed plot of secrets and dangers. P is an exceptional character, one who seems so real it seems impossible that she is merely fiction. A reader will find themselves drawn into her world immediately, cheering at her successes, nail-biting at her risk-taking, and crying with her tragedies. Animal-lovers will adore the four-footed characters: the belligerent mule Jezebel, the impish and untrainable dog Blackie, and the adorably possum Ike; and readers of all ages will laugh at the hijinks and mishaps of best friend Mart and adore P's spirited and blue-haired grandma. Without reserve, I highly recommend this book for kids of all ages. Like Where the Red Fern Grows, Hatchet, and Island of the Blue Dolphins, this book is sure to become a modern classic that children will someday be passing on to their own children.