Though both the author and illustrator of A Possum’s Tail have worked with British children’s magazine OKIDO—Gabby Dawnay is a regular contributor, and Alex Barrow is the art director—this is their first picture book collaboration. It’s offbeat and endearing, so don’t be surprised if children ask for multiple reads.
In this rhymed story, readers follow Samuel Drew and his toy dog on wheels as they head to the London Zoo. On his way, the boy passes people and places in a story that is, in many ways, a tribute to the city of London. The streets are busy: Children play; cars zoom by; people dine in restaurants. We even pass tourists and guards at Buckingham Palace. There is a lot to see, and children will want to take time to soak in the details.
Once Samuel gets to the zoo, we learn he’s most eager to see the possums, which hang upside down in their cage. Samuel watches a while and then leaves: “They’re all asleep. No games today!” But sure enough, five baby possums race after the boy as he leaves. They grab onto the toy dog’s tail and trail along behind Samuel on his way home (heading left through the pages, going back the same way he came, something we don’t see often in picture books). The boy has no idea they’re tagging along, wreaking havoc in the streets and causing people to stumble.
The book is playfully designed—on some spreads the text swings up and down across the page—and there’s a lot of understated humor. Here’s hoping Dawnay and Barrow collaborate again.