Poppy

by Avi (1995)

A Sweet Spot title. 

“Mice should be nice.”

Poppy is a young deer mouse who doesn’t accept convention and doesn’t like to do what she’s told. She lives with her family and friends in Dimwood Forest where the air is syrupy with “the scent of pine, huckleberry, and juniper.”

In the striking opening of this novel, Poppy ventures out with her close friend, Ragweed, for an evening of dancing. They encounter the great horned owl, Mr. Ocax, and quickly learn why he is considered a dreaded predator by Dimwood Forest’s smallest inhabitants. The ever-careful Poppy is hidden and safe, but foolhardy Ragweed stays in the open too long and becomes the prey of the fierce owl.

“You’re too young to have ideas.”

There’s no shortage of loyalty as Poppy schemes to avenge Ragweed’s death and protect her colony of fellow mice. Poppy takes to wearing Ragweed’s earring to honor her friend as she seeks to upend the status quo – much to the surprise of her fellow mice. Her tale is centered in the natural world, presenting its charms and threats with detailed realism. (Mr. Ocax likes a “savory frog” and a “delicious vole” for his meals, in addition to any wayward mice.)

“You’re not an owl, you’re a chicken!”

Amid the charming details of Dimwood Forest – such as Glitter Creek, the Jayswood, a vegetarian porcupine named Ereth – students will come to understand what it means to be predator or prey as the way of nature. Prepare to be thrilled as the story builds to the fateful confrontation between Poppy, armed with a mere porcupine quill, and Mr. Ocax.

Mingled with the sharp scent of pine and fir, she breathed in delicious hints of good things to eat: nuts, berries, seeds, fragrant flowers, tender roots.

Avi’s Poppy is filled with enriching prose and carried by a brave, curious, and observant protagonist who will show students how to overcome their own fears (and stereotypes). The charming illustrations by Brian Floca reinforce the story and support younger listeners. After being charmed by Poppy, students will be ready to dive into the rest of Avi’s Dimwood Forest series

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