Photo by Angie Quantrell,
Near Fort Simcoe, Central Washington
Written and illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
Clarion Books, July 2020
What joy! Playing Possum is such a delightful book! I fell in love with Alfred and Sophia and the way fear and anxiety dictated their actions. I enjoyed their many interactions and the way the forest creatures joined their adventures, many of them with their own responses to fear. The illustrations and story captivated my imagination and I couldn’t wait to turn the pages to see what happened next.
How does one make friends when burdened with such a built-in fear factor? Calmly and patiently! Jennifer Black Reinhardt has skillfully woven the story of kindness and friendship between unlikely friends in a magical woodland. I invited Jennifer to visit and tell us more about Playing Possum.
Welcome, Jennifer! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi, Angie, thank you so much for having me visit. I grew up with a mother who was an artist, and her mother (my MomMom) was an artist as well. So, I was always encouraged to create. When I was in second grade, I discovered that I could put words with pictures to tell even more of a story—- I was hooked.
I grew up in Pennsylvania and got my degree in Illustration from Carnegie Mellon University. After graduating, I worked as a freelance illustrator and had success illustrating pretty much everything except picture books. Finally, after many, many years of being persistent, I’m now getting to live my dream of writing and illustrating books for kids.
One is never too young (or I hope, too old) to write stories and draw pictures!
What was your inspiration for Playing Possum?
One night several years ago, my husband was taking out the trash and called to me to identify the animal in our trashcan. Sticking out of the top of the can was a snarling, frozen, possum! I remember feeling sorry for him. He looked so scared and I thought that it was probably even scarier not being able to run away.
What was the writing and illustrating journey you took as you created this beautiful picture book?
I wrote the initial draft of the story (we all know there are many, many, drafts, and revisions) quite quickly. It is sparse text, but once I had my characters, this story seemed to fall into place (It’s not always like that). I shared it with my critique group and then sent it to my agent. We had interest from editors right away who wished to acquire it (again, not usually like that). Illustrating-wise it was important to me to find a believable balance between what is real and what is imagined. I wanted readers to feel Alfred and Sofia’s kindness toward each other and then having the desire to spread their empathy to help others.
Wow, you are right! Playing Possum fell together quite easily, but it’s not always like that.
How did you celebrate the July 2, 2020, release of Playing Possum?
Well, a bit differently than for past books, of course. I teamed up with a local bookstore, Sidekick Coffee and Books, and held a virtual Zoom launch party.
Good for you! It is an odd year for book releases and gatherings. Sounds like you had a perfect plan.
Surprise us. What else would you like to share?
One of my earliest and warmest memories is of my mother reading me The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore and illustrated by one of my very favorite illustrators, Gyo Fujikawa. There is a tiny mouse that she has hidden on some of the pages. I can remember so clearly how much I adored looking for that little detail with my mom. It made me extremely happy that I could put so many hidden ‘critters’ in Playing Possum for other young readers to find. I hope they enjoy all those secret surprises.
I love surprises! I can’t wait to go back and reread my book and see how many I can find. Fun!
Thank you, Jennifer, for visiting today! Thank you so much for sending me a copy of Playing Possum via Picture Book Builders. I am very grateful to meet such wonderful characters and read about their adventures.
We send all the best wishes to you and much success with Playing Possum. I hope we get to meet Alfred and Sophia in a new adventure!
Here’s how you can support and get in touch with Jennifer:
Check out the book trailer for Playing Possum.
It’s was like Christmas morning when I opened the December issue of Missions Mosaic to discover an article I wrote last year.
In the publishing world, deadlines are much earlier than the publication dates. Sometimes, deadlines are one year or longer before the written project is available in print. After I hit send, I move on to the next deadline, forgetting what I’ve completed in order to focus on what needs to be written.
Like I said, an early December surprise awaited for me in the pages of Missions Mosaic. Merry Christmas!
I love hot cocoa, hot coffee, hot tea, hot apple cider. While it’s good on its own, sipping a favorite hot drink is much nicer while chatting to friends or neighbors. So what’s holding you back from this pleasure, which can be enjoyed long after Christmas decorations are packed away and the tree is chipped up for the garden?
Let’s take some time this holiday season to connect – REALLY connect – with others. Actual people, face-to-face, heart-to-heart. Share kindness and conversation.
~ Invite a friend over for coffee.
~ Organize a street-wide or neighborhood hot cocoa and cookie get-together.
~ Meet with work buddies at a coffee shop one afternoon after work.
~ Surprise your Sunday school class or other faith group by taking along along coffee and pastries.
~ Go Christmas caroling in your neighborhood or a local nursing home. Gather together afterwards to enjoy hot cocoa.
~ Read the “Sip and Share Booth” Missions Mosaic article and arrange to host one in your community.
‘Tis the season to be merry. And nothing shouts MERRY more than loving human interactions. Be the beginning of Christmas cheer as you share your life and God’s love with those around you.
***Missions Mosaic may be ordered by calling 1-800-968-7301 or by visiting wmustore.com or wmu.com/adults.
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
– William Arthur Ward
I am guilty of wrapping presents and not giving them.
My mind is a busy place. I often have thoughts of love, gratitude, appreciation, and joy towards others, but my mouth forgets to open to let those words out! My mind might feel it, but others need to hear it.
November’s theme seems to be thankfulness. Gratitude. Appreciation. So let’s do it, speak words (text, email) of thankfulness, gratitude, and appreciation.
To you, I am so very thankful for you! I appreciate you as readers and followers of this blog, your comments on posts, our shared life adventures. Thank you!
I am grateful for a kind rejection letter I just received. The answer was still no, but a kind no is better than no answer or an ugly no.
I am grateful for my honey, best friend, co-conspirator in life. So thankful.
I am grateful for our practice in living in a tiny home. RV living is tiny living. We have just the perfect layout and features needed to keep us cozy, sheltered, and productive.
I am grateful for my health. Both of us are blessed. Thanks to God Almighty!
I am grateful for my family and friends. Life is richer, deeper, more better. 🙂 Life without you would be washed out and flat. I like the colorful 3D life with you.
It’s not a mistake that the word “attitude” is a part of “gratitude.” Adopt an attitude of gratitude and speak words of gratitude today.
I’m one of those people.
You know, the ones who dart out between cars to grab one penny. The ones who poke gum on a stick to secure a coin in a hole. The one who makes others fall over the top of her as she stops post-haste and bends over to get whatever coin catches her eyes.
I will stop for pennies.
Pennies don’t carry much value, except for making change. They are perhaps the least favorite coin due to the fact that you need 100 before you can even get a dollar bill. Or 25 for a quarter, 10 for a dime, 5 for a nickel.
I still stop for pennies.
No matter their size or value, small things are important.
A smile. A wink. A hug. A pretty rock from a grubby little hand. A ladybug on a sleeve. Flowering weeds clutched and given as a bouquet. A scribbled drawing. A gentle touch. A helpful hand. A peanut butter kiss. A wave. A friendly, “No, you go first.” A penny on the sidewalk.
I stop for pennies. And small things. For small things pile up like treasures until our cups and hearts run over. It’s the small things that count.
Go ahead. Stop for pennies.