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When in Doubt, Play Dead

Life Advice from an Unexpected Source

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Hardcover
$12.99 US
5.25"W x 6.25"H x 0.55"D   | 7 oz | 66 per carton
On sale Oct 17, 2023 | 128 Pages | 978-1-68369-384-0
Featuring 70 watercolor illustrations, this totally adorable gift of a book offers wisdom and insight from a delightfully unexpected source: the opossum.

Written and illustrated by Ally Burguieres, creator of the popular Instagram account @ItsMeSesame, who spends her days as a wildlife rehabber caring for and learning from opossums, When in Doubt, Play Dead offers encouragement to embrace life’s weird, wild, and wonderful moments.

Learn to live your life the opossum way with advice including the following.

  • The difference between a weed and a flower is often a matter of taste.
  • It’s nobody’s business what’s in your pouch. Unless you’ve got snacks in there. In which case, you should share.
  • A bit of risk is part of life. Cross that street, but ALWAYS look both ways beforehand.
  • Smile! Unless someone tells you to, in which case you are well within your rights to scream.
  • And more.

Shy, resourceful, and deeply misunderstood yet thoroughly relatable, opossums offer a model for seeing the world—and oneself—in an entirely fresh way.
“I’m not usually the type who is able to read anything remotely in the realm of self-help or affirmation without feeling spoken down to, but the fact that the bits of wisdom in When in Doubt, Play Dead are inspired by my beloved opossums gives them a sincerity, honesty, and gentleness that simply cannot be matched.’—Patricia Thang, Book Riot

“Full of affirmations designed to make readers feel good about themselves, with a hefty dose of cuteness to help sell the message.”—Paste
Ally Burguieres is a wildlife rehabber and the creator of the viral Sesame the Opossum website and social media accounts, home of the internet’s most beloved opossums. In addition to wrangling opossums, she owns Cocoally (an animal-themed boutique) and Gallery Burguieres (a gallery of her artwork) in New Orleans. She is also the author of Possums Are Not Cute! (and Other Myths). View titles by Ally Burguieres
Author's Note

It was a muggy summer evening when I first saw the baby opossum I had agreed to help. I’d been warned that opossums were notoriously difficult to rehab; they’re both amazingly resilient and absurdly fragile. I suspected I was out of my depth, but any doubts about my resolve faded when I saw the moonlight glint off his round, inky-black eyes. The baby, whom I named Sesame, wrapped his long pink tail around my finger, and I was hooked. He looked at me with such faith—so pure, trusting, and vulnerable—that I instantly knew I’d do anything to help him mend. Even in his scrawny state, he was perfect.
     With the aid of licensed rehabbers and other professionals, I learned everything I needed to know to care for him. I bought a mortar and pestle and spent hazy mornings grinding supplements into powders, mixing them like a medieval alchemist. I fed him organic meals, constructed climbing gyms out of branches, and had my sister crochet him a pouch to sleep in. Sesame wasn’t a candidate for release back into the wild, and soon, he was family. My sister volunteered to make bigger pouches and hammocks as he grew. My other sisters (I have four) asked to FaceTime with him instead of me. My mom and dad started checking if their grandbaby needed anything from Costco. He became part of the community, too. The vendors at the farmers’ market would ask if Sesame liked their veggies. One even printed a “Sesame Approved!” sign for her stand. At the library book sale, the librarian put aside a book for Sesame called Possum Living. Incidentally, it’s not about opossums, but the subtitle is How to Live Well Without a Job and with (Almost) No Money, so it applied to him all the same.
     Learning new skills to keep a strange species of animal alive left little time for stress. And when I did start to worry, it felt trivial. Here was a ball of fur the size of a Hawaiian roll who had suffered hypothermia and malnutrition and been all alone in the world, yet he woke up every day (and night) with a smile. He didn’t regret the past or worry about the future. He didn’t turn down help because he had been hurt before. He didn’t worry what people thought about him or care that his hair was patchy in spots. He brought people together and gave them some extra happiness in their day.
     When Sesame passed at an old age, he left behind many friends and fans, as well as the wisdom of his approach to life. Some of this “possum living” was specific only to him, but many perspectives were characteristic of opossums as a species. One of my favorite quotes about opossums is “A possum is not like anything else under the sun, except another possum.” Since his passing, Sesame has sent me countless more opossums—“seedlings”—who need help. I fix them up, and they reveal secrets to embracing life and enjoying the moment. They teach me and their friends on social media how to be more like opossums. When they’re released back to their wild habitats, they leave behind a bit of carefree cheerfulness.
     “One day you’ll have to explain to me why you like opossums so much,” my friend Annie once sent in a message, after I bombarded her phone with photos of the rescue opossums in my care. This book, I hope, answers her question, and yours, if you found yourself wondering the same thing. In addition to revealing the reasons to fall in love with opossums and their way of life, I hope the pages in this book make you smile and give you optimism, confidence, and a bit of wild joie de vivre. Finally, I hope this book makes you happy to be like an opossum—which is to say: perfect, and not quite like anyone else.

About

Featuring 70 watercolor illustrations, this totally adorable gift of a book offers wisdom and insight from a delightfully unexpected source: the opossum.

Written and illustrated by Ally Burguieres, creator of the popular Instagram account @ItsMeSesame, who spends her days as a wildlife rehabber caring for and learning from opossums, When in Doubt, Play Dead offers encouragement to embrace life’s weird, wild, and wonderful moments.

Learn to live your life the opossum way with advice including the following.

  • The difference between a weed and a flower is often a matter of taste.
  • It’s nobody’s business what’s in your pouch. Unless you’ve got snacks in there. In which case, you should share.
  • A bit of risk is part of life. Cross that street, but ALWAYS look both ways beforehand.
  • Smile! Unless someone tells you to, in which case you are well within your rights to scream.
  • And more.

Shy, resourceful, and deeply misunderstood yet thoroughly relatable, opossums offer a model for seeing the world—and oneself—in an entirely fresh way.

Praise

“I’m not usually the type who is able to read anything remotely in the realm of self-help or affirmation without feeling spoken down to, but the fact that the bits of wisdom in When in Doubt, Play Dead are inspired by my beloved opossums gives them a sincerity, honesty, and gentleness that simply cannot be matched.’—Patricia Thang, Book Riot

“Full of affirmations designed to make readers feel good about themselves, with a hefty dose of cuteness to help sell the message.”—Paste

Author

Ally Burguieres is a wildlife rehabber and the creator of the viral Sesame the Opossum website and social media accounts, home of the internet’s most beloved opossums. In addition to wrangling opossums, she owns Cocoally (an animal-themed boutique) and Gallery Burguieres (a gallery of her artwork) in New Orleans. She is also the author of Possums Are Not Cute! (and Other Myths). View titles by Ally Burguieres

Excerpt

Author's Note

It was a muggy summer evening when I first saw the baby opossum I had agreed to help. I’d been warned that opossums were notoriously difficult to rehab; they’re both amazingly resilient and absurdly fragile. I suspected I was out of my depth, but any doubts about my resolve faded when I saw the moonlight glint off his round, inky-black eyes. The baby, whom I named Sesame, wrapped his long pink tail around my finger, and I was hooked. He looked at me with such faith—so pure, trusting, and vulnerable—that I instantly knew I’d do anything to help him mend. Even in his scrawny state, he was perfect.
     With the aid of licensed rehabbers and other professionals, I learned everything I needed to know to care for him. I bought a mortar and pestle and spent hazy mornings grinding supplements into powders, mixing them like a medieval alchemist. I fed him organic meals, constructed climbing gyms out of branches, and had my sister crochet him a pouch to sleep in. Sesame wasn’t a candidate for release back into the wild, and soon, he was family. My sister volunteered to make bigger pouches and hammocks as he grew. My other sisters (I have four) asked to FaceTime with him instead of me. My mom and dad started checking if their grandbaby needed anything from Costco. He became part of the community, too. The vendors at the farmers’ market would ask if Sesame liked their veggies. One even printed a “Sesame Approved!” sign for her stand. At the library book sale, the librarian put aside a book for Sesame called Possum Living. Incidentally, it’s not about opossums, but the subtitle is How to Live Well Without a Job and with (Almost) No Money, so it applied to him all the same.
     Learning new skills to keep a strange species of animal alive left little time for stress. And when I did start to worry, it felt trivial. Here was a ball of fur the size of a Hawaiian roll who had suffered hypothermia and malnutrition and been all alone in the world, yet he woke up every day (and night) with a smile. He didn’t regret the past or worry about the future. He didn’t turn down help because he had been hurt before. He didn’t worry what people thought about him or care that his hair was patchy in spots. He brought people together and gave them some extra happiness in their day.
     When Sesame passed at an old age, he left behind many friends and fans, as well as the wisdom of his approach to life. Some of this “possum living” was specific only to him, but many perspectives were characteristic of opossums as a species. One of my favorite quotes about opossums is “A possum is not like anything else under the sun, except another possum.” Since his passing, Sesame has sent me countless more opossums—“seedlings”—who need help. I fix them up, and they reveal secrets to embracing life and enjoying the moment. They teach me and their friends on social media how to be more like opossums. When they’re released back to their wild habitats, they leave behind a bit of carefree cheerfulness.
     “One day you’ll have to explain to me why you like opossums so much,” my friend Annie once sent in a message, after I bombarded her phone with photos of the rescue opossums in my care. This book, I hope, answers her question, and yours, if you found yourself wondering the same thing. In addition to revealing the reasons to fall in love with opossums and their way of life, I hope the pages in this book make you smile and give you optimism, confidence, and a bit of wild joie de vivre. Finally, I hope this book makes you happy to be like an opossum—which is to say: perfect, and not quite like anyone else.