Illustrated by Brian Floca
Ages 8 to 12
HarperCollins, 2000, 0-380-80490-5
Ereth is very put out indeed. His best friend, Poppy, appears to have completely forgotten that it is his birthday. Now it is important to mention that Ereth is generally not the most easy-going porcupine you could meet. In fact he is downright crabby and has the tendency to swear a great deal as well. Needless to say Poppy’s complete lack of consideration makes Ereth very upset and angry. So angry that he decides that if he wants to have any kind of birthday treat he is going to have to go out and get it himself.
So off Ereth goes. He decides that one thing that will cheer him up is to get some salt to eat. Ereth loves salt and will do almost anything to get it, including going near the cabin that the hunters have in the woods. Of course this is a very dangerous thing to do but at this point Ereth doesn’t care. He wants his birthday treat and he will do whatever it takes to get it.
Just as Ereth is about to get his wish he hears a voice in the woods. Someone is calling for help. With ill grace Ereth goes to see what is happening and is horrified to find a vixen caught in a trap. There is nothing Ereth can do to free her and there is no doubt that she is dying. What Ereth does do is that he promises, very reluctantly, to go and find the vixen’s kits. She begs Ereth to tell them about her demise and to take care of them.
Poor Ereth. No salt to eat and now he finds himself having to play nursemaid to three rather spoilt fox kits. How is a vegetarian animal supposed to find food for three meat-eaters? Will the kits’ father come back soon and take on the responsibility of taking care of his children, and will Ereth ever be able to go home? Added to this already very complicated situation is the fact that Ereth is being stalked by Marty the Fisher who wants nothing more than to put the irascible porcupine out of commission, permanently.
For readers who have met Ereth before, this book is a real treat. At last a book where Ereth is the main character, where Ereth takes center stage. With his hilarious comments, his swearing, and his determination not to care about anyone but himself, Ereth is both funny and extremely loveable. Of course Ereth does in fact do the right thing, taking on the responsibility of caring for the three motherless foxes and doing everything he can to make sure that they have what they need. Ereth may be bad-tempered, and he may smell bad, but he can be relied upon in times of trouble. Incidentally Ereth discovers that there is a definite good side to being a surrogate mother. It just takes time for him to find out what this is.
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