Learning Pack

Possum Magic

Based on the book by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas
Adapted by Eva Di Cesare and Sandie Eldridge

Grandma Poss loves making magic, she makes wombats blue and kookaburras pink. She makes dingoes smile and emus shrink. But one day, when danger arrives in the form of a snake, Grandma uses her most magical spell to make Hush invisible. Hush has many wonderful adventures. But being invisible isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and Hush longs to see herself again. One problem. Grandma Poss can’t find the spell to make Hush visible again. And then she remembers. This particular magic requires something more, something special, something to do with food... people food. Possum Magic takes us on a whimsical journey to cities around Australia to find the food that makes Hush visible again. 

This pack is designed to be used in your classroom and is perfect for students in Foundation to Years 1, 2, 3 and 4. Inside, you will find fun Drama activities and a Dreamtime story by Michael J Connolly that directly link to the Australian Curriculum. The pack also includes information about how we adapted the book for the stage.

Creative and Critical Thinking
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures

Identity and self-discovery: The story follows Hush's journey as she becomes invisible and embarks on various adventures. Her longing to see herself again and regain her visible form reflects the theme of self-discovery and the importance of embracing one's true identity.

Magic and transformation: The central plot revolves around Grandma Poss' magical abilities and her power to transform animals in various ways. The concept of magic and transformation is used as a metaphor for change and growth, both in a physical and personal sense.

Connection to nature and environment: The characters in the story are native Australian animals, and the narrative highlights their connection to the Australian landscape. The adventures the characters have while traveling around Australia also emphasize the diversity and beauty of the country's natural environment.

Adventure and exploration: Hush's journey takes her to different cities and regions of Australia in search of the special food that will make her visible again. This theme encourages children to embrace adventure, explore new places, and learn about different cultures and cuisines.

Family bonds and relationships: The strong bond between Grandma Poss and Hush is central to the story. Their love and companionship drive the plot, and the challenges they face together reinforce the theme of the importance of family relationships and support.

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Making the play

The Vision

Theatre begins with an idea, a spark of imagination. This is what we call the vision.

At Monkey Baa, our ideas come from all around us. The world we live in and the people we share it with are our biggest sources of inspiration. A lot of our shows are inspired by picture books and novels by Aussie authors, as well as others from around the world. Our production of Possum Magic is based on a picture book by author Mem Fox and illustrator Julie Vivas. It was Eva Di Cesare and Sandie Eldridge who thought it would make a great show. Sandie brought together an amazing team of creatives and developed it into a a wonderful production for young people all over Australia to enjoy.

A chat with Eva Di Cesare

How did you create Possum Magic?

Throughout 2018, Sandie Eldridge (Director/Co-writer) and I facilitated creative workshops with Year 3-4 Bankstown West Public School students. These collaborative engagements with young people have become an integral part of Monkey Baa’s adaptation process. Each year sees a different project that presents different challenges and offers greater expansion to the artistry and storytelling techniques, as we explore with young people how to make a great piece of theatre for them. The students respond to the book and the script, and they offer their ideas about how they think the story should be told. Using Drama workshop techniques and activities, the students guide us with their responses by showing what they think is important, what works and doesn’t work, and most importantly what they feel emotionally.

The Script

The vision is transformed into a script by a playwright.

Just like a poet writes poems, a playwright writes plays. They're specialists in spinning stories for the stage. Playwrights create characters, scenes and plots for a play, which is a unique form of writing with two main elements: dialogue and stage directions. Stories are powerful and magic, letting us delve into other worlds and grasp ideas and emotions. They can teach us to walk in someone else's shoes and take us on amazing adventures. Plays bring stories to life, breathing them into existence.

The Rehearsal

Once a script is developed, it is handed over to a director and rehearsals begin.

A rehearsal is a run-through of a play before it's shown to the audience. The rehearsal time is the lead-up to the big performance. During this time, actors learn their lines and how to move around the stage (that's called blocking), the stage designers come up with the look of the play's world, composers write the music, and playwrights polish their scripts. And It's all run by the boss of the show, the director.

A chat with Sandie Eldridge

What is your role as the director of Possum Magic?

As a director, I bring together the creative team, cast, and crew to theatrically tell the story of Possum Magic in a clear and entertaining way, capturing its magic and wonder. I have a strong vision informed by the adaptation process and research into the book's themes and setting. Working with students and the creative team, I aim to create a magical and theatrical experience, capturing the joy of the book.

What is your vision for bringing the show life on stage?

I have a strong vision for Possum Magic informed by research into the book's themes and setting, and collaborations with students and the creative team. I aim to capture the magic and joy of the book in a theatrical and magical experience, exploring the 1980's Australiana souvenir scene. With the help of a real magician on the team, I want to bring this beloved story to life on stage in a way that captivates and delights our audiences.

What do you do in the rehearsal room?

I mainly guide and try to have a space where all, actors, creatives, crew can feel supported and safe to create and offer ideas and choices. At the end of the day as director it’s up to me what stays and goes (to keep the story clear) but I want everyone to feel free to chip in. It’s an exciting and inspiring way to work, and for me the best way, creative collaboration. No idea is a bad idea as ideas beget ideas and that’s how you get gold. And it’s fun!

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The Design

As the show takes shape in the rehearsal room, the designer begins to create the world of the play.

There are heaps of different types of stage designers, like costume designers, scenic designers, lighting designers, projection designers, and prop designers. Designers work with the rest of the creative team on a show, like the director, producer, and sometimes the playwright, to make the look and feel of the play's world. Sets (or scenery) are what create the world of the play. Costumes are the clothes actors wear that show who their characters are. Costumes help tell the story, give actors a foundation for their performance, and let the audience know who the characters are. Props are objects used on stage by actors during a play. For Possum Magic, the sets and costumes were designed by Emma Vine, who designs for theatre, opera, dance, musicals, TV and film.

A chat with with Emma Vine

How did you create the world of Possum Magic?

In Possum Magic we are seeing the world through the eyes of our Possums, Hush and Grandma Poss. We start in the Australian bush with sculpted trees, a big moon and a projected starscape for our nocturnal heroes. Our human world is set in 1983 when the book was published and it is mighty strange to the possums. The humans have big square shoulders and oddly manicured hair. What strange tall animals these humans are!

How did you create the costumes for Possum Magic?

The possum costumes play a big role in turning Hush invisible. We need to show a change so that the audience knows when she is invisible, but can still connect with the performer. Grandma Poss will wear her famous apron, Volleys and stripey socks!

The Performance

To bring it all together, actors help create characters, tell the story and bring the world of the play to life.

An actor is a special type of person who tells stories with their face, body and voice. They act like different characters in plays, movies and TV shows. Actors use their skills to make people laugh, cry, feel scared or happy. They practice to make their performances look and sound real. Sometimes actors have to learn new things, like speaking in a different language or doing special tricks. Actors can perform in front of a live crowd or on camera. Actors go to auditions, meet directors, attend workshops, rehearsals, and performances to improve their skills. They also participate in photoshoots and interviews to build their image and increase their chances of success.

A chat with Ebony Tucker

How did you become an actor?

When I was little, I loved stories. I loved imagining the characters in my head; I would imagine what they wore, how they spoke, what colour their eyes were, or their favourite snacks. I even made up my own characters or would pretend to be one that I already knew. I discovered that there was a very special job that meant I could always be a new character, and that was acting! I practiced my storytelling, and even got to go to acting school when I was older.

What are the best parts and challenges of being an actor?

The best part is all the amazing kinds of people (and animals!) I get to pretend to be, and the friends I make along the way. The most challenging thing about being an actor is staying focused and remembering the importance of being truthful when I tell my character's story, even if I'm tired or grumpy that day.

How did you create the character of Hush?

I began creating the character of Hush by watching videos of Australian possums in the wild and learning how those real possums move and sound. Then I moved on to practicing and collaborating with the Possum Magic cast and creative team, learning some magic, and of course, eating lots of Vegemite, lamingtons, and pavlova!

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Classroom activities

Dreamtime story activity

The Rainbow Snake

Description: Students create a picture book based on the Dreamtime story: The Rainbow Snake

Resources: Paper/workbooks, pens/pencils

The Rainbow Snake:

Long long ago in the Dreamtime, a group of aboriginals were out hunting for kangaroos. It had been raining and the ground was soft making it difficult for the hunters to catch their prey. The hunters came to a clump of trees near the edge of a small plain and decided to rest in the shade. The hunters sat around resting, telling stories and warming their hands by the fire when on the horizon they saw a beautiful multi-coloured arch - a rainbow. It was the rainbow snake moving from his old waterhole to another. They were a little fearful as they did not want this huge brightly coloured serpent in a waterhole near their camp.

When the hunting party returned to their camp, the children ran out to greet them. Even though they caught only 2 kangaroos - not really enough to feed everyone - there would be singing and dancing - a big corroboree that night. During the corroboree, a young hunter went over to where the old men were sitting and asked them to tell him about the Rainbow Snake - if everyone was so fearful of him why could he not spear him then no one would fear this serpent anymore?

The old men were horrified and explained that the Rainbow Snake was one of the Dreamtime creatures who had shaped the earth. In the beginning, the earth was flat, a vast barren plain. As the Rainbow Snake wound his way across the land, the movement of his body heaped up the mountains and dug troughs for the rivers. With each new thrust of his huge multi-coloured body, a landform was created. He was the biggest of the Dreamtime Beings. At last, tired from the effort of shaping the earth, he crawled into a waterhole to be cooled and soothed and then sank out of sight. Each time the animals visited the waterhole they were careful not to disturb the Rainbow Snake, for although they could not see him, they knew he was there.

Then one day after a huge rainstorm his huge coloured body was arched up from the waterhole, over the tree-tops, up through the clouds and across the plain to another waterhole. To this day, aboriginals are careful not to disturb the Rainbow Snake as they see him going across the sky from one waterhole to another.

By Michael J Connolly
Dreamtime Kullilla-Art © Dreamtime Kullilla-Art

How it works: Students discuss the plot points of The Rainbow Snake, breaking the story up into four sections. Students then use 5 pages to create a picture book that tells the story of ‘How the Sun Was Made’ through pictures instead of words.


Title page with written title: The Rainbow Snake

  • Paragraph 1 shown in pictures

  • Paragraph 2 shown in pictures

  • Paragraph 3 shown in pictures

  • Paragraph 4 shown in pictures

Students share their picture books with their classmates.

For older students:

create a comic strip based on the Dreamtime story. A comic strip is a series of drawings that tell a story through images and captions.

Drama activities

Magical objects

Description: Students make objects things they are not.

Resource: Large, open space.

Skills required: Imagination.

How it works: Players stand in a circle and put an everyday object in the middle (e.g. a hat, a ruler, a bucket). Go around the circle and step into the circle and pretend to use the object as something that it is not.

For example, pick up the hat and pretend you are eating a bowl of cereal or you pretend that it is the steering wheel of a car.

Creeping up on Grandma Poss

Description: Students creep up on Grandma Hush without being seen moving

Resource: Large, open space.

Skills required: Imagination.

How it works: Players stand against one end of the space, with one player as Grandma Poss at the other, when Grandma Poss has their back turned the players, the players creep forward towards her.

When Grandma Poss turns around, the players must freeze as a possum. if Grandma Poss sees them move, they must return to the end of the space. The first player to reach Grandma Poss without being seen moving becomes the new Grandma Poss.


Description: Students transform their bodies through movement.

Resource: Large, open space.

Skills required: Imagination.

How it works: Players spread out around the space and transform their bodies by following these instructions:

  • Make yourself small and then tall

  • Have two legs and then four

  • Explode into a million pieces

  • Be your own shelter

  • Be in two places at once

  • Be invisible

  • Hide behind yourself

  • Levitate

  • Be upright on one leg

  • Be upside down with one foot still on the ground

Possum play

Description: Students become possums.

Resource: Large, open space.

Skills required: Imagination.

How it works: Players lie down and pretend that they are a possum curled up in the hollow of a tree. With ambient music playing, players slowly wake up as if they’re little possums and gradually move around the space. Players take on these physical instructions:

  • Stand with your hands behind your back

  • Move whilst pretending that you have a tail

  • Climb up a tree with your arms and legs

  • Look through your night-vision goggles

  • Balance on one leg

  • Find and eat food

  • Avoid danger, with only one hand and one foot on the ground

  • Become invisible

  • Swing upsidedown

Players find their way back to their little hollow in the tree and curl up ready to go back to sleep again.

Magic spells

Description: Students discuss magic and create their own spells.

Resource: Large, open space.

Skills required: Imagination.

How it works: Players sit in a circle and answer the following questions:

  • What sound does magic make?

  • What does magic look like?

  • What magic superpower do you wish you had and why?

  • Have you ever experienced magic?

  • What’s the most magical thing that happened to you this week?

Players invent their own magic spell with words, sounds and actions, plus what the spell does. Take turns to physically demonstrate how their spell works in action, with other players responding physically to the power of the spell.

Science activity

Possum research

Description: Students research and present information about possums.

Resources: Computers/student devices, projector, paper/workbooks, pens/pencils.

Skills required: Research, writing.

How it works: In pairs or small groups, students are given one of the following topics to research and gather information about:

  • Diet: What do they eat and how do they gather it?

  • Physical features: What do they look and feel like to touch?

  • Communication: What do they sound like and how do they talk to each other?

  • Habitat: Where do they live and what are their homes like?

  • Breeds: How many types of them are there and what are the differences between them?

  • Behaviour: How do they act in the wild and what do they get up to?

  • Facts: What are some interesting and unknown facts about them?

Students gather the information in their workbooks, writing the research in their own words. Then they create a presentation that includes a title page, and three pages with their topic question, information, and photos.

For older students:

Present the findings to the class, incorporating visual aids and multimedia elements to support the information presented. Reflect on the research process, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the research and presentation.

English activity

A letter to Grandma Poss

Description: Writing a letter from Hush’s perspective.

Resources: Paper/workbooks, pens/pencils.

Skills required: Writing.

How it works: Ask the students to write a letter from Hush’s perspective, asking Grandma Poss if she can try and make her visible again.

  • Ask the students to make sure that they use descriptive language to describe what it feels like being invisible and why they want to be visible again.

  • Remind the students to set out their letter in the correct format with the letter addressed to Grandma Poss from Hush. You could even give the students envelopes that they can put their letters in.

  • Once the students have finished writing their letters, ask them to partner up with another student and get them to read each other’s letters.

  • We would love to read any of your student’s letters, so please feel free to post them to Monkey Baa!

For older students:

Share the letter with a partner and receive feedback on the content and writing style. Incorporate any feedback into the final draft of the letter.


Encourage students to use their imagination and creative writing skills to craft a unique and engaging letter to Grandma Poss. Consider allowing students to illustrate their letters to add another level of detail and creativity.

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