Playing Possum & Giveaway!

I’d like to introduce you to my dear friend, Alfred.

Today is his birthday!

He and I have gotten very close over the past four years. It all began a long time ago when I saw a cousin of his in our trashcan.

This is how Cousin first looked,

and when he saw us, this happened…

Artist’s rendering. Actual image is not unavailable.

When I first met Alfred, I felt sorry for him. He was having a lot of trouble leading a happy life.

Every time Alfred got nervous, his natural instinct caused him to freeze and play dead.

Therefore, he wasn’t good at school, or sports.

And how on earth could he make any friends?

Poor Alfred was a very lonely and unhappy possum!

So, I introduced Alfred to Sofia.

Sofia is an armadillo. When Sofia feels uncomfortable, she rolls into a ball.

Alfred and Sofia became good friends and reached out to others who they noticed having some social difficulties as well.

Playing Possum has a very happy ending.

At the back of the book, I created a glossary of the cast of critters that appear in the book. I wanted to give these drawings a more realistic style, reminiscent of a dictionary.

Today, my book, Playing Possum is out in the world. I’m so excited for readers to meet these characters. My hope is that children will relate to Alfred and his friends and recognize that we all struggle to overcome challenging behaviors. It’s through patience, understanding, and kindness that we are able create a caring community and environment.

For a sneak peek at the book, check out the Playing Possum book trailer—

I would like to use this opportunity to say, “THANK YOU” to the team of amazingly talented individuals who enabled me to tell this story; To Marietta Zacker (Gallt&Zacker Literary) agent extraordinaire, to Dinah Stevenson my brilliant editor, to Sharismar Rodriguez who brought her stellar art direction and design skills to Playing Possum, and, finally, to the entire team at Clarion who worked so hard to put together the beautiful package— Thank you, all, for such a privilege.

I will very happily pick two random winners from the comments below to receive a signed copy of my book and a promotional art print. I’ll announce the winners on my next post!

Happy Birthday, Alfred!

Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Jennifer is the illustrator and author of several acclaimed picture books. Most recently is Always by My Side, 'A Stuffie Story', which she wrote and illustrated. She also is both the author and illustrator of Playing Possum, and Blue Ethel. Jennifer illustrated Gondra’s Treasure, written by Newbery award winner Linda Sue Park. As well as, Sometimes You Fly, by Newbery medalist, Katherine Applegate. She illustrated Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, The Inventor's Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons, by Alice B. McGinty, and The Adventures of a South Pole Pig, by Chris Kurtz.


  1. This book looks incredible. You made my morning. I am definitely going to get this. The illustrations are awesome. Congrats Jennifer!

  2. Margaret Suter

    So many of us can relate to those creatures who freeze up in different situations! The trailer is marvelous and I will be adding this to my must have it list for me and one for my grandchildren, and oh yes, one for my local library! HUZZAH!!

  3. What a wonderful concept, fun characters and adorable art! Can’t wait to see this book!

  4. I HAVE to see this book. I love the whimsical renditions of Possum Alfred and Sofia Armadillo. Somehow as a child I coupled possums and armadillos together. Did I learn about the 2 at the same time? Giraffe and Camel go together in my world too. Not sure why.

  5. What a great concept! I love this and can’t wait to read it! Congrats!

  6. Your art is gorgeous and the concept is one so many kids and adult readers will relate to, read after read. Happy birthday, Alfred!

  7. Judith Wright Aplin

    How appropo!!! I have a son Alfred who will soon have a birthday and has exhibited Alfred Possum’s traits…..would be wonderful to share this book with him.

  8. Happy birthday, Alfred, and WOW! Cannot wait to meet you!!!

  9. Wow- this sweet and funny book screams “winner”! I can’t wait to get a copy. Congrats!

  10. Happy Book Birthday! I love the themes running through this story. Our students would love it!

  11. Congratulations and Happy Birthday Alfred! This book sounds so welcoming and the images are joyful. All the best!

  12. Alfred, you are adorable! Welcome to the world and certainly to a special spot on my bookshelf where I will be cautious not to startle you unduly.

    “Artist’s rendering. Actual image is not unavailable.” nearly made me spit Earl Grey tea on my computer screen. LOL

  13. Angie Quantrell

    SO adorable! I cannot wait to read this book! Love the premise and the characters. I just want to snatch them up and snuggle them. 🙂 Congratulations!

  14. I’m sorry to say that I’ve been neglecting my e-mails from Picture Book Builders; however, today the name: PLAYING POSSUM caught my attention and VOILA! there was the most precious cover illustration ever. I love that little chameleon and all those charming characters and can’t wait for more of Alfred and his friends. Congratulations! Your new book sounds delightful.

    PS I think your idea to put the realistic animals in a glossary is great too.

    • I’m glad that you visited us again, Debbie. Thank you for all your kind words about the book. I’m glad you like my glossary critters. It was fun to do something a bit different for it. Good luck in the giveaway!

  15. Jennifer, what a sweet book for shy kids or those who feel socially uncomfortable. And I LOVE the photo/illustration of you and Alfred! How original!

    • Thank you, Mary. Yes, I was moved by the fact that Alfred couldn’t change the way he was. But, when he learned that he wasn’t alone and had someone who cared about him— it made everything less scary. I’m glad you like our photo!

  16. What a great post and trailer. Alfred is sure to win a lot of hearts, and I love the dictionary like drawings in your glossary. Happy Book Birthday!

  17. Yay!!! Cannot wait to get my hands on this one!!

  18. Just looking at the great cover made me laugh! I can’t wait to read your book, Jennifer!

  19. I love the theme of this book! So clever to use the animals natural defenses to show anxiety. Can’t wait to read it. ❤️

  20. Happy Birthday Alfred! Jennifer, I am looking forward to sharing your lovely book with students.

  21. Another amazing and adorable book from my favorite illustrator! Welcome to the world, Alfred!

  22. I love the illustrations and premise of the story. Cannot wait to read it.

  23. My kids were born in Australia, it would be special for them to have such a beautifully illustrated book about a possum. ?

  24. Danielle Hammelef

    This is a wonderful idea for a book and one I needed in my life as an extremely shy kid. Even as an adult I am still shy, and still working on it. Congratulations on your beautiful book that will speak to many, many readers and start important conversations.

    • Thank you, Danielle for such a meaningful compliment. There would be nothing more wonderful than having one of my characters, or books, make a difference to a reader of any age. Thanks for sharing. Best of luck in the giveaway!

  25. I love the story line; it is so applicable!!! The illustrations are a perfect match, too!!

  26. This is such a beautiful book! I love the watercolor technique and the colors! I’ve rarely met any possums in my town–only two or three times–and the possums (I suspect it might all have been the same possum) just hissed at me and waddled along the curb when I walked by. But I expect the hissing wasn’t anything personal. I think it was usually around dusk, and I always felt like I’d met a ghost.

    • Well, John, I admit that the possums that I have encountered (there have been several) were not nearly as kind and appealing as Alfred. I’m happy that you like my artwork. Thank you so much for visiting and entering the book giveaway!

  27. Alfred is so cute & so are all the other animals. It’s hard to make friends when you’re nervous & automatically play dead. Who wants to be friends with a dead animal? Congrats on a wonderful book. It’s just gorgeous!

  28. Amber Hendricks

    Happy book birthday!! I’m looking forward to meeting this sweet opossum!

  29. Michelle Garcia Andersen

    Happy birthday, Alfred! This book looks adorable! And what a relatable message. I’m probably going to play dead or curl up in a ball as soon as I click post comment. This is definitely a book I want to read. Congratulations!

  30. Congratulations to you, Jennifer! LOVE your art and possums and this is absolutely adorable! Introvert-approved 🙂

  31. Congrats!!! This looks adorable! I can’t wait to meet Alfred!

  32. Claire AB Freeland

    I’m smitten by the adorable Alfred and Sofia and so want to read about their journey. Congratulations on this happy book birthday!

  33. This one looks like so much fun! So glad that Alfred and Sofia became friends, and will inspire a whole lot of shy kids (and former-shy-kids, now writers!) Putting it on my TBR list.

  34. He’s very excited to meet everyone, too. A bit nervous, though. Best of luck in the giveaway and thank you!

  35. Happy book birthday, Alfred and Jennifer! This looks delightful.

  36. Thank you, Kathy! We are having a happy time celebrating today. Thanks for entering the giveaway!

  37. Janet Frenck Sheets

    When I lived in the Maryland suburbs, we had a possum in our backyard. She would walk by our window at roughly the same time every night. For a time, her babies came with her. They’re fascinating creatures and deserve to be in more picture books! I love that you’ve paired one with an armadillo (a creature I’ve never seen in the wild). Can’t wait to read this!

  38. An absolutely adorable book! I can’t wait to do a picture walk and read this book to find out if the title is a play on words or not! I love when I can incorporate figurative language into my reading with my English learners!

  39. *Sigh* If only the possums I’ve encountered in real life were as charming and adorable as Alfred. But then, that’s part of the fun of fiction, giving even creatures like ogres, trolls, wolves, cockroaches, rotten potatoes, and possums a chance to show a shinier side. Looking forward to reading Alfred’s adventure.

  40. Michelle Meadows

    Love this post! Congrats, Jennifer!

  41. I love the concept! I can’t wait to read this book. Thanks for the giveaway!

  42. Pamela Harrison

    What a wonderful theme for a picture book! I wish I your book when I taught Kindergarten. The story sounds sweet and so does the relationship between the two characters. I love your illustrations. So cute!

  43. This book looks adorable! I would love to read it to my second grade kiddos once the school year starts up.?

  44. Alfred looks AMAZING! Congrats!

  45. Happy book birthday! I look forward to reading Playing Possum. I had a similar experience with a possum in a trashcan at a playground. My picture looks like yours. 🙂

  46. Great idea for helping kids talk about anxiety!
    Wish you much success.

  47. This is adorable, Jennifer! I love the concept. Thanks for sharing the back story!

  48. This post had me laughing out loud! What a fun book!

  49. Cute characters, and fabulous artwork! The kids are goig to love this.

  50. This book looks like a great read loud! I’d love to add it to my class library. Poor possums often get a bad wrap. This would be a great way to share some possum love!

  51. Feliz Cumpleanos Alfred and Sofia! I think you have Bengal cousins here in Texas who want to celebrate with you. I see them out in our backyard with their babies. Big families, big plans for big celebrations! @PicBkBuilders

  52. I love everything about this wonderful friendship story. Congratulations!

  53. Happy birthday, Alfred and congratulations, Jennifer. I will never look at possums the same way again! I like that “children will relate to Alfred and his friends and recognize that we all struggle to overcome challenging behaviors” – maybe a few of us adults, as well. Ah-hem. 😉

  54. What a wonderful book. Congrats and thanks for sharing it.

  55. Congratulations, Jen!!! Your book sounds adorable. I love possums and their cousins, even when they steal our veggies.

  56. Love, love, love this, Jennifer! I have always had a soft spot for possums and it is a secret dream of mine (not so secret, now) that you would illustrate one of my books someday. Congratulations!

  57. Happy Birthday, Alfred from a family who lives in Alfred, Maine! Such wonderful illustrations! Best of luck everyone!

  58. Congratulations! Your book is adorable and the illustrations are precious.
    I love the book trailer.

  59. This book looks amazing! Growing up I had a pet possum but he wasn’t as nice as Alfred. I can’t wait to read about him and Sophia.

    • Wow, Sheila— I never met anyone with a pet possum before. I know that people do have them. Alfred’s not really a pet. He’s pretty independent and now is out on his own. Thank you for entering the giveaway!

  60. I was smiling the whole time I was reading your post and watching the adorable book trailer. I think Alfred is going to have that effect on many readers! Congratulations!

  61. Cindy Schumerth

    Happy Birthday Alfred! This book looks like so much fun can’t wait to read it.

  62. Your illustration style is one in a million! It is rare thing for a top illustrator to be a top storyteller too! Congrats! Can’t wait for this…

  63. I am excited to meet Alfred and read his story. I know some kids who would love to be his friend!

  64. Doreen Robinson

    What a clever story idea! I live your artwork, too. Congratulations on this beautiful book!

  65. Thank you, Doreen! I appreciate your kind words. Thanks for visiting and entering the giveaway!

  66. This looks adorable! Thank you for sharing it with us and congrats!

  67. Meredith Fraser

    This book will be perfect for my anxious, shy 5 year old grandson!!

  68. What a sweet idea for a picture book. I can’t wait to check it out!

  69. Congratulations, Jennifer!!! This looks completely adorable and I’m in love with Alfred and friends already. Love the story of the inspiration. Can’t wait to see it in real life! Those washes have me salivating…

  70. This is adorable! I can’t wait to meet Alfred and Sophia. Congratulations!

  71. This is such a sweet story. I can’t wait to get this book and share with youngsters.

  72. Pingback: Comparison is the enemy – A Space for my Creative Efforts

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