OPINIONS AND OPOSSUMS, by Ann Braden, Nancy Paulsen Books, May 2, 2023, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 10 and up)
A girl with lots of questions — and opinions — gains the confidence to say what she feels in Opinions and Opossums, by Ann Braden.
Agnes has been encouraged not to question authority by her mom—but that’s especially hard in religion class, where it bugs her that so much gets blamed on Eve and that God’s always pictured one way.
Fortunately, Agnes’ anthropologist neighbor, Gracy, gets Agnes thinking after they rescue an opossum together. Playing dead didn’t serve the opossum well, so maybe it’s time for Agnes to start thinking for herself. And when Agnes learns that some cultures picture God as a female, she feels freed to think—and write—about things from new perspectives.
As she and her best friend, Mo, encourage each other to get out of their comfort zone at school as the quiet kids, they quickly find it’s sorta cool seeing people react when they learn you are very much full of thought-provoking opinions. Ann Braden has written a fast-paced, funny novel that will resonate with anyone who’s ever been afraid to say what they think or question the status quo. —Synopsis provided by Nancy Paulsen Books
When it comes to raising my kid, I’m a big believer in “just because I believe something doesn’t mean you need to, too.” I feel like my job as a parent is to give my kid the tools to make informed decisions, but that those choices need to be theirs and not mine. This obviously isn’t an absolute — we do have rules and boundaries — but the goal is to help her become an independent adult.
And that’s one of the big reasons I love Opinions and Opossums, by Ann Braden. She takes a big topic like God and breaks it down into thought-provoking questions and observations.
Some people will see this book as an attack on religion, but in truth, it’s a celebration of faith. And Braden begins with a simple, but profound, quote from Maya Angelou, “Tell the truth. To yourself first.”
Through Gracy, Agnes discovers, “we can never understand the truth about something if we don’t wonder what we’re missing.”
When Agnes sees her classmate being chastised for dancing to a song, she wonders why this classmate doesn’t look like she feels God’s love.
“Why can’t God be someone who encourages us to be who we are? Who listens to our most secret dreams and then gives us a fist bump and tells us to go for it? Who has our back, not because it’s required, but because God knows what doubt feels like and isn’t going to let us doubt ourselves? Why can’t we picture God that way?”
Agnes wonders if faith comes from within yourself rather than what people are told to believe.
As Agnes discovers her own beliefs, she encourages others to do the same. She realizes that everyone struggles with things, even when they appear the opposite. And she realizes that it’s OK for everyone to think of God and have a relationship with God in different ways. For one friend, God is in your heart. For another he’s light. For another, he’s a man with a beard. And for Gracy, it’s imagining “an enormous, invisible fabric connecting everyone.”
Opinions and Opossums is a book that makes you think. It’s the kind of book that would have changed the world for me as a youth. So much so that I bought a copy for my 9-year-old to read.
Braden’s prose is warm and inviting and Agnes is a character that will challenge and excite you. This is an excellent read.
*Opinions and Opossums is a Cybils-nominated book. This review is my opinion and not the opinion of the middle-grade fiction panel as a whole.
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