RAGWEED, by Avi
Book One of the Poppy Stories.
Ages 8 to 12
Avi elaborates on the "city mouse, country mouse'' theme in this rousing prequel to Poppy, starring Poppy's ill-fated beau. Impelled by wanderlust to hop a train to who-knows-where, Ragweed ends up in the rundown part of Amperville, where the local mice (all named after car parts) are being terrorized by Felines Enraged About Rodents (F.E.A.R.), a two-cat extermination squad led by evil-tempered Silversides. After several brushes with death, Ragweed defiantly teams up with Clutch, green-furred lead guitarist for the B-Flat Tires, to open a dance club for mice only, then in the climax organizes a devastating counterattack that sends F.E.A.R. scurrying out of town. In the end, though, Ragweed opts for the country life (little knowing that it's going to be sweet but short). A colorful cast in which even the ferocious Silversides comes in for a dash or two of sympathy, plus a plot replete with, of course, narrow squeaks will keep readers turning the pages, while Floca's scenes of tiny mice fleeing looming, toothy predators add more than a touch of drama.
Consummate storyteller Avi outdoes himself in this prequel to Poppy and Poppy and Rye, cutting loose with a crackerjack tale that's pure delight from start to finish. Here Ragweed, the adventurous mouse with whom Poppy is destined for a tragic romance, hops a train and heads for the bright lights of the big city. The hip urban setting hops with adventure and memorable characters, from the punk-haired mouse Clutch, who plays lead guitar for the Be-Flat Tires at the Cheese Squeeze Club, to Silversides, the malevolent puss president of F.E.A.R. ("Felines Enraged About Rodents"). Ragweed is wowed by the excitement of Amperville, with its abundance of "human nests," and quickly evolves from bumpkin to city slicker, picking up the lingo and mastering the "high four" paw slap. But cat-mouse hostilities escalate, with the cats destroying the Cheese Squeeze Club (the mice set up a new hang-out in an abandoned building once known as The Last Independent Bookstore). Ragweed rallies his fellow mice to lead a revolt against F.E.A.R. in a triumphant ending that finds the cats literally all washed up. Fueled with a mixture of outrageous puns and sly witticisms, this is, as Clutch would say, one totally awesome tale. High four! Final art not seen by PW.
School Library Journal:
Ragweed, the golden mouse who appeared briefly in Poppy before being devoured by an owl, gets an entire book to himself in this prequel. At an early age, he sets off to explore the world beyond the Brook, so he hitches a train and ends up in the town of Amperville. Unfortunately, a fierce house cat named Silversides has created an organization called Felines Enraged About Rodents (F.E.A.R.), and is trying to rid the town of all mice. Ragweed is saved from Silversides's claws by Clutch, a streetwise young mouse who dyes her head fur green, wears an earring, and plays in a rock band. As F.E.A.R. becomes more and more of a threat, Ragweed and Clutch hatch a plan to unite the town mice at their new club, the Café Independent, where they stand up against the cats and win. After this victory, however, Ragweed's wanderlust compels him to leave Amperville and travel onward...to Dimswood Forest. Fun and breezy, this adventure should appeal to fans of the series and newcomers as well. It does bog down whenever the focus goes from Ragweed and his friends to the bitter Silversides, and kids probably won't be interested in Clutch's stereotypically bohemian parents (an artist and a poet). The constant slangy jive-talking of Clutch and her pals ("Look, when I say cool, I mean, you know, like, it's good") will either irritate or amuse readers, but the thrilling climax at the Café Independent will leave them breathless. —Eva Mitnick.
"A mouse has to do what a mouse has to do," states young Ragweed, leaving his family to see more of the world. We first met Ragweed, albeit extremely briefly, in Poppy (a Booklist Editors' Choice 1995), in which he is snatched up and eaten by the terrifying owl, Mr. Ocax. Here, we learn what a stalwart mouse Ragweed is as he hops a freight train, lands in the rundown town of Amperville, and barely escapes the clutches of Silversides, a very angry white cat, the founder of F.E.A.R. (Felines Enraged about Rodents). Ragweed takes up with hipster mice band members Clutch, Dipstick, and Lugnut. "You cool enough to hang with me, dude?" asks Clutch. When Silversides and her sidekick, Graybar, destroy the Cheese Squeeze Club, killing many mice, Ragweed not only leads the town mice to transform an abandoned bookstore into the cool CafeIndependent but also directs the battle against the opening night invasion by F.E.A.R. And like an old-time hero, Ragweed rides off into the sunset--aboard another freight train. Fans of Poppy and Poppy and Rye will relish the humor and the adventure, but they also may be glad they didn't know Ragweed so well before he was offed in the first story. —Sally Estes.