It was 1993, and I was living for a few months in Corvallis, Oregon. Wandering into a bookstore, I found a remaindered book about owls. Finding it fascinating, I resolved to write a book about these wonderful birds. That’s why the book I was composing began with a Mr. Ocax, a nasty owl.
(At some point I gave that owl book to a fellow writer and lost track of both her and the book. Alas, I can’t tell you—or myself—its title.)
When I started to write, I quickly shifted my interest to the mouse whom that Owl was going to eat. Her name was “Pip.”
Back in my (then) hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, I read a final draft of the book to a fourth-grade class in the Moses Brown School. A student showed me a book about a mouse named Pip. I changed the name of my mouse to Poppy.
On September 1, 1995, Poppy—written by me, published by Orchard Books, wonderfully illustrated by Brian Floca—was published. It vanished, becoming tangled up in a publishing crisis. What saved it was winning the Horn Book Award for that year.
In no logical order, the whole seven-book series was completed with the publication of Ragweed and Poppy in 2020. (Brian did the art for all the books) From a story point of view, it was the second tale (or tail) in the saga. The narrative order of the series is Ragweed, Ragweed & Poppy, Poppy, Poppy & Rye, Ereth’s Birthday, Poppy’s Return and Poppy & Ereth. It took twenty-five years to create. [Ragweed, at some point, was in part rewritten]
There are no books I enjoyed writing more.
These days, parents write to me that they read the books when younger and are now reading them to their youngsters.
As of May 11, 2021, the entire series will be available in paperback. Thank you, HarperCollins.
To celebrate this event, we invite readers to submit questions (in the comments below) about the series, or any one of the books. We will post answers on our various social media platforms.
Or as Ereth might say, we want you to be part of a cheesy caterwauling celebration.
12 thoughts on “We’re Celebrating!”
The librarian in my school could always tell when I read Poppy to my third graders. She would have wait lists for her copies and our classroom library copies would disappear into book boxes. Congratulations! Commence caterwauling!!
Will you ever write another book in the series?
In the writer biz, it’s best never to say never though I have no plan to write one and there are other books I must write. But I do love the characters so.….….….….….
Wonderful! (Thank goodness for the Horn Book Award.)
I have read Poppy to my third graders, to start each school year, for 15 years now. It complements the science I teach and often I refer to literary connections from the book for student writings. The character development of Poppy from beginning to end provides an excellent frame work for my students and we often say “what would Poppy do?” Many of my students search and read books from the series. I highly recommend this series and it’s author. The most popular feedback from former students is their memory of that mouse. I often have former students ask me if I still read Poppy? I still can’t put it down. Thanks Avi.
Thank you Daniel.
As a zoology-obsessed child, I had to be persuaded by my teachers to read more fiction, and one of the most effective ways by which they did so was by introducing me to fictional stories that nonetheless took clear inspiration from real-life natural history. The Poppy books (there were four at the time) fit the bill. I still look back on the earlier books in the series fondly, and I’ve kept up with the newer titles since then. (Haven’t had a chance to read the latest book yet, but I intend to!)
My one pressing question about the series is trivial, but I might as well use this opportunity to ask it: was there a specific reason Mephitis was not mentioned in Poppy and Ereth? I found his absence noticeable given the way he was introduced as a major character in the previous book, and the sense of finality that Poppy and Ereth gave the other main characters.
I’m afraid I didn’t think of Mephitis as a major character. Didn’t even occur to me to extend his story.
Ha, well that answers that. Thanks for the reply!
I have enjoyed reading the Poppy series to my 2nd and 3rd grade classes for 20 years. These stories are often mentioned as highlights of the year when we reflect. You have made such a positive impact on so many young lives looking for a hero, no matter how small. Ereth makes us all laugh, and we realize that friends help make hard times so much better. We appreciate your beloved series. Many thanks!!
Hi Avi. . My name is Mina and I’m 6 and 1/2. I tell stories all day and I have since I started talking.
I love your Poppy series. I wanted to ask you about death in Poppy books. When Ragweed died, I didn’t mind so much because i didn’t know him. When Mr. Ocax died, I didn’t mind because he was a bad dude. But when Rye died, after being with me for so many books, without any warning, I was really really upset and for a days refused to continue reading the books. I even cried really hard one night with my mom and I asked her why why would he write this for children? Now I feel better about it, I’ve gotten back to reading and even finished the series. But still, I was wondering how you decided to have Rye die so suddenly and without any warning and did you worry about how kids would feel reading that. And one more thing I wanted to say: POPPY IS SO CUTE!!!! I think about mice all the time now, tell stories about them, and am trying to convince my mom to get me one.
Dear Mina: Thanks for your note. I’m so glad you have enjoyed the Poppy books. Creatures, big and small, often struggle for life. Owls do eat mice. Forest fires happen. Foxes have new kits. Mice have lots of new mice, New children come into the world. But in that world we live in young people often struggle too. The pandemic has been terrible for all. But I have great faith that children can make the world a better place, that they care for others, that they are not afraid, that they can be as smart as you, and ask hard questions. But they have the best smiles and the best love to share. Thank you for writing to me.