Opinions and Opossums

Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. May 2023. 176p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781984816092.
Gr 3-7–Adolescence is typically a time of questioning authority and traditional beliefs. Twelve-year-old Agnes never had the opportunity to question what she believes until a Confirmation class makes her rethink all her prior ideology. In Confirmation class, she is faced with the dilemma to pledge to believe in God, spurring much introspection. Agnes, with friends Mo and neighbor Gracy, share deep discussions and partner on writing important topics. Along the way, Agnes writes an opinion piece from the voice of an opossum that was almost gravely injured. Braden has woven the story of an overlooked and misinterpreted animal with thought-provoking realistic fiction. Braden shares a multigenerational story of how poetry and speaking your truth can be refreshing and connecting. This novel could be useful in social emotional learning lessons about being patient when change happens slowly or allowing oneself permission to feel anger. Readers might relate this quirky tale to Naked Mole-Rat Letters by Mary Amato about strange misunderstood animals and unexpected relationship dynamics. The world needs tweens to reflect on who is telling every story, whether fiction or nonfiction, and the motivations for those perspectives.
VERDICT A healthy reminder that the status quo continually needs to be challenged by thoughtful youths. There are a multitude of metaphors found in the natural world that can provide lessons if we are open to receiving them. A good choice for tween shelves.

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