The Opossum and the Cats
by Marilyn B. Wassmann
Writers Branding

"They chased one another around the edge and unfortunately went beyond
the side of the pond and all of them suddenly fell into the water—"

A mother cat is desperate for a place to birth her kittens. Running out of time, she enters an opossum’s den. Too tired to move, she pleads with the opossum to let her be as she has her litter. The opossum doesn’t stir much as he sleeps during the day because of his nocturnal scavenging. As time goes on, the opossum finds the kittens and their interest in its tail amusing. However, the opossum generally keeps to itself and its nocturnal lifestyle. One day, after several kittens fall in the pond, a frantic sibling rushes to the den to find its mother. She isn’t there, but the kitten’s noise rouses the opossum. Thinking quickly, the opossum flings his tail into the pond to rescue the kittens. When the mother cat returns, she thanks the opossum. The opossum is also thankful because it still has time to sleep.

Wassmann’s book is a rhyming story, with each page containing a stanza typically consisting of four lines in rhyming couplets. Also included are strikingly drawn illustrations capturing the action. The rhymes are good, and the story is well set up so that the reader is engaged when the tension of falling in the pond is introduced. The opossum’s laissez-faire attitude is effectively contrasted against its heroic actions when needed. Readers familiar with poetry will likely see a connection between this work and T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Not only are they thematically linked, but both works employ basic rhythms and rhyme schemes, often with similar four-line stanzas and couplets. One difference between the two works comes from the tone. Whereas Eliot’s work is more absurd and light-hearted, Wassmann’s story is more focused on setting up a scenario where there is a life-threatening incident, and one creature will have to make a decision about helping others. In fact, the author closes the tale by pointing out that this is the moral of the story.

Wassmann’s story is engaging and entertaining, and it is likely to delight many young readers. The book’s use of familiar animals to children, such as a mother cat and her kittens, with a relatively unfamiliar one like an opossum, is sure to capture the imaginations of her audience. However, the overall effect of the narrative would be enhanced through some additional editing, especially regarding line length, sentence structure, and abrupt, unnecessary pauses and breaks within the lines in ways that are not intentionally used for dramatic effect. That being said, one must compliment Wassmann on her talented use of rhymes and off rhymes to make the story progress while maintaining the couplet rhyme scheme. It isn’t easy to write a story in verse that is both equally appealing in content and satisfactory in its rhymes and rhythms, and in this sense, the author’s book truly stands out. Overall, Wassmann’s story is a satisfying read and better than many similar offerings. It is an enchanting story and would make a good read-aloud for early elementary children as well as a nice bedtime book.

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