Tuesday, February 1, 2011

possum dummies

What does it mean to be brave? It's doing something, even when you're really scared. This is the message of one of my favorite childhood books, Brave Brush-Tail Possum by Diane Redfield Massie.

Brush-tail possum has resigned himself to a demise via Goanna Lizard. Why doesn't try to run away or defend himself like they do, his friends wonder? He can't help it, he says. He'll freeze if he sees the Goanna Lizard and he'll be eaten like the rest of his family before him, because "that's what possums do."

But the next morning he is busy doing SOMETHING, though his friends have no idea what and eagerly watch as his project unfolds. Possum eventually presents a banana leaf bundle stuffed with a ghastly mixture of bitter berries, skunk cabbage, stink bugs, and mud. His friends, guessing repeatedly that it's a sausage, are finally met with Possum's frustrated, "IT'S NOT A SAUSAGE!" He mournfully explains it was an attempt to make a possum dummy so as to confuse the Goanna, but, he sighs, "He'll know it isn't me." His friends backpedal in an attempt to encourage him: "It's a good dummy. It looks just like you, Possum!" Though Possum feels a bit more hopeful, he worries that he might freeze anyway if he looks at the Goanna's eyes. "Don't look at his eyes," cautions Koala Bear.

That very night he comes face to face with the Goanna. He feels himself begin to freeze, but his friend Wombat comes to the rescue from below. His distracting "YA! YA! YOU FLABBY LIZARD!" gives Possum just enough time to push his dummy out and stumble behind the leaves. The Goanna, not realizing the switcheroo, greedily consumes the possum dummy in one bite. "GGGGGAAAAAAH!" ... "THAT'S THE LAST POSSUM I'LL EVER EAT!" he bellows as he retreats. Possum's friends congratulate him: "You didn't give up, even though you were scared, and that's really brave."

And Possum has to admit that he is.

I volunteered to do an activity in my daughter's preschool class. The children helped me to mix up some crepe batter and I demonstrated how to make a crepe (though I never claimed any expertise!).

We then read Brave Brush-Tail Possum and set out to make our own possum dummies.

The kids excitedly piled bitter berries (raspberries), stink bugs (Cocoa Crispies) and mud (Nutella, or chocolate pudding for those with nut allergies) onto banana leaves (crepes) and rolled them into possum dummies. Yogurt was available as well, just so they weren't too ghastly.Though several of the children declared they'd never eat crepes again, most happily devoured their concoctions.


  1. You are such a pretty pregnant lady. I miss you, I need to email you, we are in PA right now but I'll be in touch when we get back to MA.

    Love you all!

  2. What an adorable baby bump! CONGRATS! Hope you are enjoying your new home, and have adjusted well. Your girls are looking so grown up since the last time I saw them!

  3. I alternately chuckled and laughed outright at your retelling of Brave Brushtail Possum. All the memories or reading it to you as a child, and subsequently reading it -- and watching Dad read it -- to grandchildren are so sweet to me. I love the associated activity! How creative and integrative! However, I have to ask: Where is the skunk cabbage?

  4. Aw, thanks, Sharon and Moshi for the compliments. It's much more than a bump these days, though - it's starting to remind me of a watermelon!

  5. As I wrote the post I felt like I was giving a book report in grade school! Glad you enjoyed it, Mom. Isn't it amazing how some books from childhood evoke such vivid memories? When I go to others' houses and see the books long out of print from their childhood that they've scrounged up on ebay, I'm sometimes mystified by the draw of that particular book. Perhaps Brave Brush-Tail Possum is the same? Oh well, we enjoy it!

    Yes, skunk cabbage - I couldn't come up with anything remotely appealing to represent it. Any ideas?