Dead Possums are Fair Game

This title by Taryn Souders features a possum as inspiration for a math contest. “With a little imagination and some inspiration from their friend the opossum (now named Morty, short for rigor mortis), Ella and her classmates come up with a project that gets them excited about math and they might even have a chance to win at the MathFair!”

Math teacher and picture book  author Souder (Whole-y Cow! Fractions Are  Fun), upends neatnik Ella’s numerophobia and assumptions about adults in this wholesome novel. Morty, a dead  opossum that manages to catch a kickball thanks to the wonders of rigor mortis, and Wacky Willa, Ella’s favorite aunt who arrives to share Ella’s room for several weeks, propel radical changes in this fifth-grader’s life. Supported by friends Jolina and Lucille, newcomer Jonathan, her parents, and some remarkably understanding teachers, Ella not only survives Willa’s dog’s tendency to swallow or throw up on everything important to her, but also the last-minute destruction of an important math project, with a summer free from tutoring hanging in the balance. Willa may not be the roommate Ella hoped for, but her loving encouragement and advice lend her a special role in her niece’s life. Ella’s narration doesn’t always sound like that of a kid (and clichéd interjections from her French classmate, Jean-Pierre, are  even less so), but readers should still find her adventures appealing and entertaining. Ages 8–12. Agent: Sally Apokedak, Leslie H. Stobbe Agency. (Nov.) –Staff (Reviewed October 19, 2015) (Publishers Weekly, vol 262, issue 42, p)