cover image Mattie's Little Possum Pet

Mattie's Little Possum Pet

Ida Luttrell, Luttrell. Atheneum Books, $14.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-689-31786-6

Luttrell ( Be Nice to Marilyn ) and Lewin ( Araminta's Paint Box ) prove that looks can deceive in this homespun tale. ``One bright, leaf-tumbling morning,'' lanky farmer Mattie looks in on her chickens, then goes to pick persimmons with her dog Howler and cat Prowler. On their way into the woods, the three find a possum, belly-up. Mattie takes pity on the spiky-haired critter, never realizing that it's just, well, playing possum. The ``varmint'' causes trouble, and Howler and Prowler take the blame until Mattie learns the truth. Luttrell's lively narrative includes some colorful phrases (when the pink-tailed miscreant invades the henhouse, Mattie's chickens exclaim, ``A woolly-hopper egg popper!''). Lewin makes skillful use of gestural outlines and sparingly applied watercolors: Mattie's impish face shows that she's easygoing but strong-willed, Howler's and Prowler's eyes communicate feelings from contentment to exasperation, and the possum's smirk betrays its sneakiness. With one flaw--the oft-mentioned persimmons never appear--the authors craft an animated, expressively illustrated work. Too bad they left out the recipe for possum pie. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)