I’m going back and forth between genres and time periods in this series, but the next book on hand was Possum Magic by Mem Fox, one her most popular and best loved stories for children in Australia. Books that show our wildlife and vast array of cultures can illustrate the unique character of Australia.
Using Australian animals such as possums – Grandma Poss and Hush, who spend their time in the bush, surrounded by other bush animals, where Grandma Poss practises magic – special magic that made wombats blue, and kookaburras pink, whilst dingoes would smile, and emus would shrink. The best magic within the book though, is the magic that makes Hush invisible. And it is this magic that sends Grandma Poss and Hush on a journey across Australia to find something to make Hush visible again. A story that has been loved by children since 1983, after thirty-four years – thirty-five in 2018 – it is still in print through Scholastic Australia, and Mem Fox’s story is accompanied by the charming illustrations of Julie Vivas.
It has been published in various editions – paperback, hardback, large size and smaller books over the years, with special anniversary editions coming out at key anniversaries and companion books, including:
These have also been published by Scholastic, along with the anniversary editions of Possum Magic, and editions that have a book and toy.
What Possum Magic represents is an environment and setting that Australian children grow up with and become familiar with, a world that is theirs, with animals that are familiar to them. The books aimed at younger readers about animals, numbers and opposites allow young children to learn about Australia whilst also learning about animals, counting and opposites.
The legacy of Mem Fox and Possum Magic is special to Australia – it is, like Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, a tribute to the Australian bush and Australia, and an icon that many children, including myself have grown up with. What it means to Australians is that the stories we have here about our bush, our various cultures and diversity need to be told and should continue being told. Telling our children stories about Australia from a young age will hopefully encourage a long lasting and life-long love of Australian literature.