Illustrated by Brian Floca
Ages 8 to 12
HarperCollins, 2005, 0-06-000012-0
If you think that humans are the only ones who have trouble with their teenage children then you have better think again. Poppy and her husband Rye, who are a pair of mice, are having a dreadful time with their son Ragweed Junior. Junior is rude, obnoxious, surly, and he spends all his time either in his room or with his friend Mephitis, who just happens to be a skunk. Poor Poppy, famous for defeating a terrible owl and for saving Rye from a crew of beavers, is at her wits end. She even asks Ereth, her grouchy porcupine friend if he will talk to Junior.
Then Lilly, one of Poppy’s sisters, arrives on the scene. It would appear that all is not well at Gray House - Poppy’s old home - and Poppy’s father wants Poppy to help him deal with a very difficult situation. It is feared that the humans are going to knock Gray House down. If this happens Poppy’s family and friends will be homeless.
So Poppy, Lilly, Junior, and Mephitis set off for Gray House. It is an awkward business for Lilly does not like the two youngsters and she and Poppy do not get along. Poppy is reminded of why she left her old home in the first place. She very fervently hopes that she can get this visit over as quickly as possible so that she can return home to Rye, their children, and their home in Dimwood Forest.
Poppy and Junior’s struggles with their parents are so very familiar. As Poppy acknowledges, we cannot help being a part of our families for we are born into them, but at the same time this does mean that we are going to get along with them. As Poppy and Junior try to figure out how to help the Gray House mice, they also learn a great deal about each other. Junior discovers that his mother is a pretty “cool” mouse and Poppy begins to see that there is a lot of herself in her son.
Once again readers will laugh at Ereth’s peculiar swear words and phrases and this time they get to meet and to know a skunk whose strong smell covers up a gentle and lonely soul. With great skill and sensitivity Avi highlights the difficulties that exist between family members and reminds us that it is sometimes necessary to dig beneath the surface to find out what someone is really like.
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