word craft


Where did the idea for Poppy come from?

PoppyThomas, from West New­bury, Mass­a­chu­setts, wrote to me and asked, “How did you come up with the idea for Pop­py?”

Well, Thomas, I was liv­ing in Ore­gon, in the town of Cor­val­lis. Wan­der­ing into a book­store, some­thing I like to do, I went to the bar­gain sec­tion, some­thing I like to do even more.There I found a book—shame on me for not remem­ber­ing title or author—which was writ­ten by a nat­u­ral­ist. It seems that in a for­est he found a lost baby owl in poor health. He took the owl home, nursed it back to health, and taught it to live on its own in the wilder­ness. The owl did well in the for­est, but every now and again he (I think it was a he) came back to say hel­lo to the man who saved him. I loved that book. The book also taught me a great deal about owls. The more I read, the more con­vinced I was that I should write a book about owls. Enter Mr. Ocax! But—as I wrote about the owl, I need­ed to detail what owls ate. They ate—among oth­er things—mice. Enter Pop­py! The book there­fore begins with Mr. Ocax, but as always with me, the more I wrote, the more the sto­ry changed. I had become inter­est­ed in the mouse—Poppy—the crea­ture the owl wished to eat. It became Poppy’s sto­ry. In short, I invent­ed as I went along. As I have said before, quot­ing the poet Robert Frost, “If there are no sur­pris­es for the writer, there are no sur­pris­es for the reader.”

As for the rest of the Pop­py books, that’s anoth­er story.

1 thought on “Where did the idea for Poppy come from?”

  1. Hel­lo, Avi. You know, I did not read but I did look at that same book while think­ing about draw­ing Mr. Ocax. For some rea­son I remem­ber that the author named the owl Bubo. Take that mem­o­ry, add the inter­net, and here I think is the title: One Man’s Owl, by Bernd Hein­rich. So!


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