Possum Porter has had it with change. First she lost Mama, leaving a hole nothing can fill. And now, instead of trying to return to some kind of normal, Daddy's sending Possum to school. A real school, where you have to wear SHOES. Where some Yankee teacher will try to erase all the useful things Mama taught Possum during their lessons at home.
So Possum comes up with a plan. If she can prove that she already knows everything worth knowing, Daddy will let her quit school and stay where she belongs. She won't have to deal with snooty classmates, or worry about tarnishing Mama's memory.
But unfortunately, Possum doesn't shoot to the top of the class like she expected. Even worse, the unmarried Yankee teacher seems to have her eyes on someone . . . Possum's Daddy. With time running out, Possum decides to do something drastic to get away from school-and get Daddy out of Ms. Arthington's clutches-or risk losing everything that's keeping her broken heart glued together.
This warm work of historical fiction takes readers to the Hoover-era South, where times are hard for all and particularly tough for LizBetty "Possum" Porter, who yearns for things to be "like when they'd been perfect," back before her mother died in childbirth. Still, Possum, "past eleven and a half, working on twelve," seems to have enough grit to carry her through life's changes, from her family's sadness to worries about a newly arrived "Yankee devil" teacher who seems sweet on her father and wants Possum to go to school, even though "Momma didn't want my learnin' boxed into that schoolhouse." With formal schooling comes an awakening on more than one front, as Possum navigates changing friendships, awkward love, and her own healing heart. Laso saturates her debut novel with fresh figurative language that shapes her characters ("I felt like dirt on a worm belly, only worse") and strongly evokes Possum's world. Sadly, this is also Laso's last work; she died while completing final revisions in 2015. Ages 8 12.
Amazing - Must Read Story
I fell in love with Possum Porter from day one. A young girl growing up in a small town that doesn't have much but gossip. Still reeling from the death of her mother and baby brother, I was instantly thrust into Possum's world and didn't want to leave. Possum is quite the tom-girl, more comfortable in her cover-alls and bare feet, running through the woods and learning from the world around her.
But her father is lost without her mother. Deciding she needs to go to school, against her wishes he tells her she must attend the one-room school house. Determined to prove she doesn't need it, she goes up against the school bully, attempts to win an essay contest, and makes new friends. Learning all the way.
There are tons of great characters in the book that surround Possum. From the teacher, the school kids, and even one of their parents. Life was very different back then and I fell like Maria D Laso captured that feeling perfectly.
In the end, I bawled my eyes out. Yes, a middle grade book made me cry and I'm not ashamed to admit it. The last scene was beyond touching. It moved me in ways I find hard to explain. I think this book needs to be in every library and every school. Capturing this girl's moment in time was priceless.
**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book**