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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998

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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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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The Baudelaire children—Violet, 14, Klaus, 12, and baby Sunny—are exceedingly ill-fated; Snicket extracts both humor and horror from their situation, as he gleefully puts them through one terrible ordeal after another. After receiving the news that their parents died in a fire, the three hapless orphans are delivered into the care of Count Olaf, who “is either a third cousin four times removed, or a fourth cousin three times removed.” The villainous Count Olaf is morally depraved and generally mean, and only takes in the downtrodden yet valiant children so that he can figure out a way to separate them from their considerable inheritance. The youngsters are able to escape his clutches at the end, but since this is the first installment in A Series of Unfortunate Events, there will be more ghastly doings. Written with old-fashioned flair, this fast-paced book is not for the squeamish: the Baudelaire children are truly sympathetic characters who encounter a multitude of distressing situations. Those who enjoy a little poison in their porridge will find it wicked good fun. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-440766-7

Page Count: 162

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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