Friday, February 22, 2008


I'm a judge for the Elementary Battle of the Books competition, so I've been catching up on this year's books. Poppy was next on my list, so I grabbed that. Now, Avi is one of my very favorite children's authors. He has a new book coming out, and I CANNOT wait to read it-turn of the century New York ghost story? Written by one of the modern masters of children's literature? Oh, I am SO there!

However.....animal fantasy stories are really Not My Thing. Oh, sure, I love Babe: The Gallant Pig (if you loved the movie, you must read the book-it's even more fantastic, and there are significant differences) and Charlotte's Web.

But a family of mice battling against a common foe? Oh, terrific. I already don't like Redwall (although I know many of our preteen patrons, especially boys, gobble that series up). A family of mice that lives under an owl dictatorship? At least this is markedly shorter than Redwall.

Oy, oy, oy. I gave myself a pep talk ("It's Avi! You know....Don't You Know There's a War On...The Traitor's Gate...Crispin...") and plunged in.

Folks, I read this book in one night. Admittedly, it's one of the shorter books on the BoB list (it's not like I was reading The Star of Kazan, which I adore).

First of all, the language is pretty laugh out loud funny. There's lots of wisecracks and witty putdowns, which should make it very popular with kids. Then there's the suspense; will Mr. Ocax ensnare Poppy? Why doesn't Mr. Ocax want the mice to move to the new house?

Not only that, this could lead to discussions on totalitarianism, disobeying bad rules, and courage.

All this in 160 pages!

Yes, there any question of Avi's genius?

Luckily, there are sequels to Poppy: Poppy and Rye and Poppy's Return. Avi also wrote two books about two pivotal characters in Poppy: Ragweed and Ereth's Birthday.

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