Alien & Possum
Alien is from a planet far, far away.
Possum is from Earth.
Alien is many bright colors, like yellow and red and green.
Possum is one color — gray.
Alien thinks high voltage is delicious.
Possum thinks trash is delicious.
Can these two ever be friends?
Without a doubt!
Three droll vignettes make up Johnston’s (The Iguana Brothers) appealing launch of the Alien & Possum beginner reader series, which introduces two very different pals. After Possum (wearing a spiffy bowler hat) observes a spaceship crash near his tree house, he encounters its passenger: “It was made of many strange things. It made many strange sounds.” Alien is also “many colors” while Possum is but one hue: gray. Though the author drums the message home a bit loudly in the first vignette (“Things of all colors can be friends,” says Possum), for the most part, the morals are delivered with subtlety and wit, focusing on the ability of friendships to ride out various challenges. In the final story, for instance, Possum falls asleep while Alien reads him a bedtime story and then eats the book (“It was such a good bedtime story I ate it”), but the creature’s “electro-perfect memory” enables him to recite the story for Possum when he awakens. DiTerlizzi’s (Ted) copious watercolor, gouache and colored pencil illustrations enhance both the humor and the warmth of the caper and help recommend it for readers ready to take a step up from picture books. A springy pace, lively dialogue and Alien’s silly sound effects should make this, like Possum’s bedtime story, an ideal read-aloud. Ages 6-8.
Possum and Alien are good friends who first met in Alien and Possum: Friends No Matter What (2001). Here, they play together and help each other understand their place in the world. In the first of three stories, Alien bemoans the fact that he is different from all the other living things in the forest, while Possum complains that he is merely one of “skadillions” of possums. They reassure each other that they are both unique and wonderful. The second tale is about a delightful, fun-filled birthday party. The last, reminiscent of Stellaluna (1993), shows our heroes sharing the joys of perching on a tree branch, each in his own special way. The plots are gentle expressions of friendship and acceptance. Johnston’s language is simple and straightforward, as befitting the easy-to-read format, but she does not sacrifice imagination or imagery. Repetition of words and phrases and generous use of contextual clues provide aid and comfort to emergent readers. However, an oversight in the layout might cause some confusion: a table of contents lists page numbers for the beginning of each story, but there are no corresponding numbers on those pages. DiTerlizzi’s cheerful, cartoonlike illustrations nicely complement and enhance the slight stories with a spirit of fun. Possum has a slightly goofy demeanor and Alien is very egg-like and even resembles Humpty Dumpty. A likable duo and an enjoyable romp for beginning readers who will be looking for the next installment. (Easy reader. 6-8)