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Cover for Playing Possum

Playing Possum

Jennifer Black Reinhardt


List Price: 17.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Meeting strangers makes shy possum Alfred anxious, and he plays dead. So he has trouble making friends—until Sophia the armadillo reveals that when she gets anxious, she rolls up in a ball. A witty friendship tale inspired by animal behavior.

In this winsome tale, Alfred, who plays dead, and Sophia, who rolls up in a ball, stand in for shy or anxious humans whose discomfort keeps them from fitting in. Jennifer Black Reinhardt has cast animals with defense mechanisms as characters to tell an imaginative, endearing story about learning to make friends by mastering fear and shyness. Alfred and Sofia open up to each other and go on to help other creatures who have social difficulties by practicing patience, forgiveness, and friendship—tools for overcoming the barriers that keep us from connecting with others. An author’s note lists real animals and their defensive behaviors.

Praise For Playing Possum

"Reinhardt has created a great story of acceptance, friendship, identity, and empathy that will reassure young readers dealing with their own anxieties. The semi-realistic illustrations are endearing and often funny, softly rendered in watercolor, ink, colored pencil, and collage." —Booklist

"The author’s minimal text leaves the primary storytelling role to her gently dappled, luminous mixed-media art, which features springtime hues and an anthropomorphized cast. Notes on the spotlighted animals’ self-protective behaviors cap this sensitive tale." —Publishers Weekly

"A gentle readaloud about the need for even the most nervous of beings to have a trusted friend, with whom they can be themselves without judgment. Reinhardt’s illustrations are cozily humorous." —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Reinhardt tells this story in a linear fashion, making the plot line and character development easy to follow. Rather than focusing on the scary aspects of meeting someone new or being the center of attention, the humorous elements of an animals’ defense mechanism are highlighted....richly toned watercolor landscapes filled with flowers and curlicues....An additional purchase for libraries needing to expand their social-­emotional learning picture book collection." —School Library Journal 

"Throughout, Reinhardt’s comical depictions of the fearful animals provoke laughter but are never meanspirited."—The Horn Book

Clarion Books, 9781328782700, 32pp.

Publication Date: July 7, 2020

About the Author

Jennifer Black Reinhardt has illustrated many acclaimed picture books and chapter books—including Yaks Yak and Gondra's Treasure by Linda Sue Park and Sometimes You Fly by Katherine Applegate. She has also written and illustrated several, including Playing Possum. Jennifer lives with her family in Iowa City, Iowa. Visit her online at, on Twitter @jblackreinhardt, and on Instagram @JenniferBlackReinhardt.