Readers may wonder who to root for in this disappointing follow-up to one of the best animal stories in years.


From the Poppy series , Vol. 4

Still grieving over the loss of her beau Ragweed of Poppy (1995), the intrepid deer mouse decides to bring the sad news to his family in this uneven, heavy-handed sequel. 

Setting out from Dimwood Forest with her hopelessly infatuated porcupine friend, Ereth, Poppy arrives just in time to help Ragweed’s parents and numerous siblings avert eviction. Led by ruthless Caster P. Canad, a crew of beavers has dammed up the nearby brook in preparation for a housing project. The mice have already been flooded out of one home, and their new one is about to be threatened. Saddened—but also secretly relieved to be out from under his brother’s shadow—dreamy Rye dashes out to see what he can do against the beavers, and is quickly captured. Having fallen in love with him at first sight, Poppy organizes a rescue, urging the meek mice to fight back; they do. The bad guys silently depart, and Poppy and Rye set a date. Avi develops his characters to a level of complexity that provides a distracting contrast with the simplistic story, an obvious take on human land-use disputes, and easily distinguishable victims and villains. In language more ugly than colorful, Ereth chews over his feelings for Poppy in several plot-stopping passages, and is last seen accompanying the happy couple back to Dimwood. 

Readers may wonder who to root for in this disappointing follow-up to one of the best animal stories in years. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-380-97638-2

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998

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Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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