“Ever felt misunderstood? Opossums know that feeling quite well,” begins the back jacket copy for Opossum Opposites, a picture book by author Gina Gallois. “These lovable, gentle creatures are simply shy, introverted spirits who avoid the spotlight….”
That right there is relatable on its own, but the description continues: “… but as cleaner-uppers, they are essential to our ecosystem.”
As a fellow conservationist, I’m hooked!
Although bottle feeding baby raccoons was partly what led me to write Raccoon Rescue, the first fuzzy critters I ever encountered in wildlife rehab were, in fact, baby Virginia opossums. Snuggled in blankets in a plastic bin on a countertop at Izzie’s Pond, the curious babies climbed out to have a sniff at me — and led me to ask about volunteer opportunities.
Too many people haven’t had the chance to interact with curious baby opossums, though. They’re more likely to have encountered adult opossums scavenging in their gardens or even their trash bins. They might have been intimidated by the rows of teeth in a gaping opossum’s mouth, or disgusted by the foul smell of an opossum “playing dead.”
Opossum Opposites seeks to overcome these misperceptions for beginning readers, encouraging coexistence. One of the features I appreciated about this book is the combination of rhyming verse for beginning readers, with “did you know” facts for older readers and engaging “what if?” questions for all ages — such as, “Does your mother have a pouch? How many kids do you think she can carry on her back?” (For the record: I personally have only ever managed one at a time.)
Aleksandra Bobrek’s soft illustrations of America’s only native marsupial in their habitats from birth through growth show a variety of relatable situations. (I was tickled to see an owl encounter that paralleled a scene in Raccoon Retreat!) One especially poignant piece shows an encounter between what we humans would think of as a “friendly” dog, and an opossum who naturally doesn’t share quite the same viewpoint.
That’s just one of the ways Opossum Opposites encourages empathy for this species. Its text works at this, too, from asking questions like “How do you react when you are afraid?” to reinforcing the need to reach out to adults — specifically, wildlife rehabilitators — when you find an injured wild animal.
I even learned some new things: for example, how opossums communicate with one another and their young.
Opossum Opposites is the kind of picture book I’d loved to have had for my sons. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next from Gallois and Moonflower Press, and encourage you to follow them, too!
To find out more about Opossum Opposites, Gina Gallois, and to get some adorable opossum gear, visit MoonflowerPress.com.