POPPY AND ERETH, by Avi
Book Six of the Poppy Stories.
Ages 8 to 12
In this sixth and final adventure in the Poppy series, the deer mouse’s husband, Rye, succumbs to pneumonia, and Poppy is accidentally flung into the air and carried away by a young bat. Ereth the porcupine concludes that Poppy has perished, and begins planning her funeral. Poppy’s grandson Spruce, less convinced of her demise, sets off to search on his own. Series fans will enjoy spending time with these endearing characters, and the end leaves the door open just a crack for further adventures. With much series backstory woven into the narrative, this stands alone; but fans won’t want to miss any of these tales. —Kay Weisman.
Horn Book Magazine:
With this sixth book about Poppy the deer mouse and her friends and family, Avi bids farewell to Dimwood Forest and its residents. A sense of loss permeates the novel, which begins with the death of Poppy’s beloved husband and ends after a fire destroys their forest home. In between, plenty of fast-paced action, cliffhanger chapter endings, and Ereth the porcupine’s comical theatrics prevent the whole from becoming too dark. Wishing her life would change, a grieving Poppy inadvertently gets more than she bargained for when a number of mishaps land her in a bat colony far from home. Wrongly believing that the missing Poppy is dead, Ereth spends much of the book planning her funeral and pledging to be more like his best friend. Poppy’s independent-minded grandson Spruce suspects that reports of Poppy’s death are greatly exaggerated, and the young, impetuous mouse sets off to find his grandmother, despite all evidence and opinion to the contrary. As always, Floca’s thoughtful drawings add depth to the characters and bring the woodland setting to life. Avi’s affection for his cast is obvious; readers will find this a satisfying conclusion to a heartfelt series. —Kitty Flynn.
Avi bills this as the final episode in the series and burns down Dimwood Forest to underscore the claim but since all but one of the characters survive at the end, there's no reason to believe him. When the elderly Poppy is carried away by a young bat, her gruff friend, Ereth the porcupine, thinks her dead and organizes a funeral. While she's making friends with the bats in their distant cave and then trying to find her way back home, a lightning strike touches off a blaze in dry Dimwood. Cutting back and forth in short chapters from Poppy to the grieving Ereth to runty but intrepid Spruce, one of Poppy's many grandchildren, the author weaves several plotlines together in time for the smoky, exciting climax. There are no villains here to crank up the melodrama, but several cliffhangers, quick pacing and a lively cast more than compensate. Several figures from previous adventures pass in review, either in flesh or in Poppy and Ereth's memories, but that's not enough to create any convincing sense of closure. There's life in the old series yet.
School Library Journal:
In this lovely and fitting conclusion to a popular series, Poppy's husband, Rye, dies, and the grieving deer mouse refuses to see anyone. Then Ereth needs her help, and in the process of saving the porcupine, she is thrown into the air and flown to a cave by a young bat. Thinking she is dead, Ereth plans her funeral. Meanwhile, a fire breaks out in Dimwood Forest. Seen through animals' points of view, the story takes readers through Poppy's adventures, including being aided by her former enemy, Bounder the fox, as she tries to get home to warn the others of the danger. Ereth stays true to his character—pompous and curmudgeonly—yet devastated when he thinks he's lost Poppy, while she remains the eternal optimist and, in the end, is able to move on with her life. This heartwarming fantasy is filled with fast-moving action and danger, and has themes of friendship and loss. Fans of the series will be completely satisfied. —Kira Moody.