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Our read aloud for today was A Tale of Two Honey Possums by Felicity Bradshaw and beautifully illustrated by Patricia Negus. Bradshaw is a biologist from Western Australia who has studied honey possums for over 20 years. It is a sweet story about Benji and Noola, brother and sister honey possums born to Mother Possum, and their first year of life.

I am no expert on living books but I love this story. It is a wonderful book that can easily be used as a natural science book for young children. It contains great detail of the honey possum, their physical attributes, what they eat, where they live, how it’s young are raised, and what the dangers are for them. It also contains a great deal of information about other animals who share there habitat amongst the Banksia in the Australian bush. But it is not a boring textbook. I would put it in the same rank as The Burgess Animal Book and The Burgess Bird Book. In fact I think it’s a little better. The story is engaging and captivated my children’s imagination. Especially when the honey possums endured a bush fire and their home was completely burnt. The development of the fire in the story sparked a long conversation with my children about bush fires. For most Victorians (people who live in Victoria, Australia, where I was from) the topic of bush fires is really close to home, as a few years ago Victoria suffered one of the worst bush fires in our history. There were around 300 fatalities and entire towns were burnt to the ground. Bush fires are a very big threat every summer in rural Victoria and fire safety ads flood TV and radio to help ensure people are prepared in the event of a fire.

When I first brought this book out to read to the children my hopes were that they would learn some wonderful, interesting facts about Australian animals and our beautiful flora. Instead, unexpectedly, this simple story about the adventures of two honey possums sparked, as Charlotte Mason would call it, a “grand conversation” about bush fires, what they’re like, how they start, and what we should do. This then led to practicing what to do in the event of a house fire, having lots of fun crawling around the house, testing to see if doors were hot, and eventually making our way out of the house to the letter box. I’m not sure if there is much danger from fires here in Florida, but our impromptu lesson on fire safety sparked by our little book of A Tale of Two Honey Possums, I count as one of our best examples of stories having a meaningful impact on our children. I feel confident that this will be a treasured book in our children’s library and I look forward to the next grand conversation when we read it again. Perhaps it will be a discussion about endangered Australian marsupials? Here’s hoping…

This book is available from the artist Patricia Negus and at Abebooks

What stories have sparked a “grand conversation” in your home?