Recommended for ages 8-11
Fifth grader Ella is stressed out. Her math teacher has just announced that while there won’t be any more math tests for the remainder of the school year, the students will be putting on a math fair that will count as two test grades. Add to that, the fact that her awesome Aunt Willa is coming to live with her family for a month – but she’s staying in Ella’s room and brings her big, slobbery dog named Chewy (and it ain’t for Chewbacca), and you have a recipe for disaster! Ella’s a bit of a control freak who likes things in their own proper place; Willa has commandeered Ella’s bed and dresser, moved her furniture around, and taken over her bathroom. Chewy has taken over Ella’s extra mattress. Luckily, Ella’s got a great group of friends who team up with her for the math fair project, turning it into a memorial of sorts for the dead possum that became legendary during gym class. Maybe things will look up for Ella after all.
Dead Possums are Fair Game is way too much fun. Ella is a bit neurotic, which sets her up for all sorts of hilarious happenings, whether it’s being slobbered on by a big dog or stepping on a dead possum. There’s a nicely done focus on math, particularly time conversions and animal life cycles that will make teachers and parents very happy, and will hopefully show kids that math is less painful than they may think. There’s also a great discussion about how math is pretty important in every area of life; most careers require some sort of math knowledge, and it’s not a bad thing. Further information about animal lifespans at the back of the book will help English and Math teachers work together to use this book as a teaching resource.
Ms. Souders has a background in math education, and it shows not only in her ability to break down math problems to make common sense to kids, but in the interactions between kids and grownups and kids themselves. The dialogue is realistic and well-paced, and she has a neurotic kid’s inner dialogue down pat (I should know, being a former one myself). Dead Possums is a great add to your realistic fiction collections.
Taryn Souders also has a website, Whole-y Cow! Fractions are Fun, with downloadable math resources for kids.