Monday, December 7, 2015

Dead Possums Are Fair Game - Taryn Souders

There's an image you want to encounter when you first arrive on a blog site isn't it?  Come on now, admit it, I got your attention for sure didn't I?  I am sharing a fun book with you this morning.  It has a great message about... math!  Ready?  Let's do it! 


"Dead Possums Are Fair Game"

Authored by Taryn Souders

Ages 8-12

About the book...

" A dead opossum can make even math look less scary in this delightful lower middle grade novel about a young girl, a slobbery dog, and the terrors of math class."

Ella Hunter is in 5th grade at Victor Waldo Elementary School.  She has two phobias: spiders and math.  She would like to exterminate both of those from the world.  She has a very inquisitive mind and does like science a lot.  

One morning she and her friends find a dead opossum in the school playground which totally grosses them out.  Ella is fascinated by the little guy even though he has expired.  It is confirmed that rigor mortis has set in and the kids question how long the opossum
 has to be deceased for that process to happen.  

Ella sweats and agonizes over her math assignments and is very upset when because of a time restraint finds out that her teacher is cancelling the last two in-class math tests and instead is asking the class to participate in a math fair.  Ella needs a good solid final grade or she will have to be tutored for the summer and she isn't looking forward to that scenario at all.  She and her group are assigned the topic of time conversions, which of course is Ella's worst nightmares.  

With the deceased Morty in mind, (Morty being short for rigor motis), Ella's creative group design their math project to be a memorial to the beloved little guy.  Ella receives much encouragement and help from her parents, her temporary roommate Aunt Willa, and of course her best-friend classmates. Will she succeed and get a passing grade and therefore eliminate a summer filled with endless tutoring and even more disgusting math?

This book is full of humour and is educational as well.  I know exactly how Ella feels because she could be me.  That is precisely how I felt about math in my formative school years.  I never had teachers that made math fun and exciting and something that I could find and relate to in my every day life. It was a subject. It had no connection to the things around me. It was boring and hard and tedious. I always did well in math but that came with a lot of anxiety, worry and doubt that I would always fail the next test.  I finally hit an amazing math teacher in Teacher's College that turned my perception of math from a scary, hopeless subject into one of fun and dare I say it?....  happiness!

I think many kids (and adults) can relate to Ella's feelings regarding math and will find the book inspiring and hopeful.  

"Perfect for both math-lovers and those who shy away from the subject, "Dead Possums Are Fair Game' is a must-have for every middle-grader's bookshelf."   

About the author...

I came across an interview with the author and will post it for your enjoyment.  

Taken from:  "Orlando Mom's Blog by Heather1 on November 2015 in Motherhood Real Life Parents."

Specifically for readers 8-12 years old, this book is the delightful tale of Ella, who believes the world would be a better place without math or messy roommates.

HI       The title of your book. It’s fabulous. Tell me about it.
TS       I wanted a title that would appeal to girls and boys, something all kids would be intrigued by. The expression “fair game” means it’s up for grabs—work with it any way you can. Since Ella is attempting to use this dead possum to pass her end-of-the-year math project, I thought Dead Possums Are Fair Game would work.

HI       Why did you want Ella to struggle with math?
TS       Ella was me in school. She mainly struggles with math because she doesn’t like it. Since she doesn’t enjoy math, she never takes the time to figure out how to make it work. It’s one of those situations where, “I’m not good at it because I don’t like it. I don’t like it because I’m not good at it.”

HI       Viscous cycle for sure. So you struggled in math, yet you went to college to be a math teacher?
TS       I had a really, really good math teacher as a junior in high school. She made math fun. She made it understandable. I decided I wanted to help kids the way she helped me. I could say to my students, “I know exactly how you feel right now.”

HI       What do you hope children gain from the book?
TS       I want children to realize being a perfectionist is not the end all, be all of life. Life is full of mistakes. A lot of good can come from them. Ella is a perfectionist. I want anyone who struggles with perfectionism to walk away from reading this book knowing it’s okay to make a mistake.

HI       That’s something, even as moms, we can relate to. Let’s talk about motherhood. You’re one of us—an Orlando momma. Share a few things you find difficult about being a mom.
TS       The sibling rivalry. I have three kids. Nathan’s six. Jireh’s 11 and Elenna’s 12. They argue. Every day. The hard part is they each emphatically believe their point of view is the right one. The sibling rivalry just drives me up the wall. It really does.

HI       I can relate. Sometimes I want to know if will end. What else?
TS       They want to continue to argue with us about decisions. My husband, David and I used to engage. Particularly with our oldest. She’d just want to talk about it and talk about it and talk about it. We got to the point we’d say, “This is what has been decided. We hear you. But this is our final decision. Thanks for playing.”

HI       Like, the decision is final.
TS       The decision is final, and now we’re moving forward. It’s my job to be their mom. It’s not my job to be their friend. Hopefully that will come later. It’s my job to protect them right now.

HI       Absolutely. What are the good parts?
TS       Oh, the kids. They’re wonderful. When they’re not fighting. Those are the good parts. When there’s laughter. We have family game night a few times a week. Those are the good times.

HI       What do you want for Dead Possum Are Fair Game?
TS       I would love to see the book in every school, in every classroom, from 3rd grade to 7th grade to show kids you’re not going to only encounter math in textbooks, you’re going to encounter math in real life.

HI       Anything else you want us to know about the book?
TS       It’s a really long process. I think I started writing this back in 2010 and didn’t get all the details hammered out until like 2014. So it’s been a work in progress for a long time.

HI       Because you’re a mom.
TS       Because I’m a mom.

Read on and read always!

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