Dead Possums Are Fair Game by Taryn Souders, 2015
Children’s novel for grades 3-7; realistic fiction
Fifth grader Ella Hunter hates math. She is less than thrilled when her teacher announces that the class will be putting on a math fair, and that their projects will be worth two test grades. Ella’s teammates are her friends Jolina and Lucille, and the new boy Jonathan. Their project is inspired by a dead possum that the class named Morty. They will use fraction conversions to show how many minutes various types of animals live. Meanwhile, Ella is temporarily sharing her room with her Aunt Willa, a photojournalist and Ella’s role model. Ella is initially excited, but Aunt Willa makes a mess of Ella’s room, and her dog Chewy destroys everything. What’s worse, Aunt Willa bursts Ella’s bubble by explaining that photojournalists actually do use math.
Dead Possums are Fair Game is a light-hearted easy read, where the biggest point of conflict is how Ella will get a good grade on her project. But just because this book doesn’t address serious issues doesn’t mean it isn’t good. It’s humorous, the characters are memorable, the basic plot points are interesting, and Ella’s perfectionism is a running theme that ties everything together. (Losing control of her formerly-perfect bedroom and sharing control of her hopefully-perfect math project are both major concerns for Ella.)
I would recommend this book to math-lovers and math-haters alike, as well as to any older-elementary-school kids who enjoy realistic fiction that largely takes place at school. For example, fans of Andrew Clements will enjoy Dead Possums Are Fair Game, as will readers of the Ramona Quimby books.
Additional information for teachers and parents:
This book has not been given a Lexile score, and other leveled reading information is not available.