*Avi. Poppy. Oct. 1995. 160p. illus. Orchard/Richard Jackson. $15.95 (0-531-09483-9); lib. ed., $15.99 (0-531-08783-2).
Gr. 4-6. a good old-fashioned story with an exciting plot, well-drawn characters, and a satisfying ending, avi;s latest novel will please readers on many levels. Mr. Ocax the owl rules the territory where Poppy, a young deer mouse, lives with her large, extended family. The mice have agreed to obey Mr. Ocax, and, in exchange, he has promised to protect them from porcupines, animals that the mice know only from the owl's alarming description. Although warned by her officious father to to leave home without the owl's permission, Poppy sneaks one night with her boyfriend, ragweed. Poppy listens to Ragweed's goading about her tearful submissiveness, then watches in horror as Mr. Ocax pounces on Ragweed, killing him instantly. Poppy soon finds her own way from cowardice to courage when she sets out on a quest to fine her family a new home. As an adventure story, the book combines action, suspense, and humor. As a novel of character, it covincingly portrays growth as Poppy faces her fears and finds her way. Older children may recognize the politics of power played out through the three figures who initially dominate Poppy: Mr. Ocax, who cleverly coaxes, rules by fear, and despises those he oppresses; stance behind his bluster; and Ragweed, who puts down Poppy for he cautious ways, for reading alone or reading aloud.