POPPY, by Avi
Book Two of the Poppy Stories.
Ages 8 to 12
A Richard Jackson Book | Orchard Books
Winner of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction
An American Library Association Notable Children's Book selection
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Booklist Editor’s Choice
Booklist (Starred Review):
A good old-fashioned story with an exciting plot, well-drawn characters, and a satisfying ending, Avi's latest novel will please readers on many levels. Mr. Ocax the owl rules the territory where Poppy, a young deer mouse, lives with her large, extended family. The mice have agreed to obey Mr. Ocax, and, in exchange, he has promised to protect them from porcupines, animals that the mice know only from the owl's alarming description. Although warned by her officious father not to leave home without the owl's permission, Poppy sneaks out one night with her boyfriend, Ragweed. Poppy listens to Ragweed's goading about her fearful submissiveness, then watches in horror as Mr. Ocax pounces on Ragweed, killing him instantly. Poppy soon finds her own way from cowardice to courage when she sets out on a quest to find her family a new home. As an adventure story, the book combines action, suspense, and humor. As a novel of character, it convincingly portrays growth as Poppy faces her fears and finds her way. Older children may recognize the politics of power played out through the three figures who initially dominate Poppy: Mr. Ocax, who cleverly coaxes, rules by fear, and despises those he oppresses; Poppy's father, who threatens dire consequences because he is fearful but has little substance behind his bluster; and Ragweed, who puts down Poppy for her cautious ways, choosing to deny fear entirely and consequently dying in Chapter 1. An excellent choice for reading alone or reading aloud. —Carolyn Phelan.
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review):
Newbery Honor author Avi turns out another winner with this fanciful tale featuring a cast of woodland creatures. As ruler of Dimwood Forest, Ocax the hoot owl has promised to protect the mice occupying an abandoned farmhouse as long as they ask permission before "moving about." Poppy, a timid dormouse, is a loyal, obedient subject-until she sees Ocax devour her fiance and hears the owl deny her father's request to seek new living quarters. To prove that the intimidating ruler is really a phony, Poppy embarks on a dangerous and eye-opening quest, which ends with her one-on-one battle with Ocax. While the themes about tyranny and heroism are timeless, Avi leavens his treatment with such 20th-century touches as Poppy's jive-talking boyfriend and Poppy's own romantic vision of herself as Ginger Rogers. An engaging blend of romance, suspense and parody, this fantasy is well-nigh irresistible. Illustrations not seen by PW.
School Library Journal (Starred Review):
A fast-paced, allegorical animal story. Mr. Ocax is a great horned owl who rules the mice who live around Dimwood Forest, preying on their fears by promising protection from the dreaded porcupine in exchange for unconditional obedience. Challenging his despotic authority is the smart-talking, earring-sporting golden mouse Ragweed, whose refusal to obey turns him into a meal for the owl. His timid sweetheart Poppy returns home, where she learns that a delegation must go to request permission from Mr. Ocax to relocate half of the mouse family as they have outgrown their present quarters. When he refuses, Poppy, inspired by Ragweed's independent thinking, decides to undertake the scouting journey to the proposed new home anyway, encountering along the way an irreverent porcupine who explains that he and his ilk are no threat to mice. Armed with Ragweed's earring, a quill sword, and the awareness of the owl's deception, she plans to expose Ocax as a cowardly bully. She finds herself in a fierce battle with him, resulting in his death and allowing for the mice's liberation. This exciting story is richly visual, subtly humorous, and skillfully laden with natural-history lessons. The anthropomorphism is believable and the characters are memorable. The underlying messages, to challenge unjust authority and to rely on logic and belief in oneself, are palatably blended with action and suspense. Black-and-white illustrations are in keeping with the changing moods and forest locale. A thoroughly enjoyable book. —Marie Orlando.