Epossumondas by Janet Stevens (Illustrator), Coleen Salley (Author)
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Veteran children's lit professor Coleen Salley tells a variation on her signature story, an archetypal "noodlehead" tale based on the time-honored Southern legend of Epaminondas. A "sweet patootie" named Epossumondas headlines here as a be-diapered young possum who follows his mama's instructions a little too literally.
"Queen Coleen" (as Salley sometimes goes in her native New Orleans) tells her story in slow, old-South cadence, repeating a cycle where Epossumondas visits his auntie "most every day" and receives something to take home to his mama's. His gifts, however, never seem to arrive intact: After Epossumondas arrives home with a piece of cake that's been squinched into a fistful of crumbs, his mama scolds, "Oh, Epossumondas, you don't have the sense you were born with! That's no way to carry cake! The way to carry cake is to put the cake on your head, put a hat on your head, and come along home." But the next day, Auntie gives him butter, which then gets carried home cake-style (on his head). The next day, he gets "a sweet little puppy," which then gets carried home butter-style (wrapped in leaves and cooled in a brook), etc.
Caldecott Honor-winner Janet Stevens has obvious fun capturing Epossumondas's ridiculous errands in watercolor and colored pencil, especially as other bayou animals look on in puzzlement. But Steven's biggest coup has to be conveying the story's subtle secret--that Epossumondas might not be as dumb as he looks.