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One year he appeared
In the yard,
Eating our birdseed
Spilled in the snow,

Chewing steadily, with
Teeth meant for meat,
Staring with serious
Eyes at nothing,

Busy, but slow,
As if thin fur, bare
Feet, the lean winter,
Were no matter.


Valerie Worth (nom de plume, also maiden name, of Valerie Worth Bahlke), 1933 – 1994, American poet and author of works for young people (of all ages). (C.S. Lewis, for one, was adamant that good children’s literature is enchanting and edifying reading not for children only but also for adults. I heartily agree!)

Worth’s writing is highly expressive while containing not one redundant word; it’s delicately wrought, simple and descriptive, radiating depths of empathy with and kindness toward even our most humble fellow creatures. She was the recipient, in 1991, of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, in recognition of her lifetime contribution to young people’s literature.

“Opossum” appears in the picture book Pug and Other Animal Poems (2013), which contains an 18-piece selection of Worth’s poetry. Another element making this slender volume a joy to read is the sensitivity of the beautifully rendered pictures accompanying the verses. Created by Steve Jenkins (whose illustrations also grace two other of the poet’s collections), each picture unfurls generously and colourfully across the open pages of the book.