Ereth's Birthday (Poppy Stories Series)

Ereth's Birthday (Poppy Stories Series)

4.6 8
by Avi, Brian Floca

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Erethizon Dorsatum—better known as Ereth, the self-centered, foul-tempered old porcupine—is having a birthday. And he fully expects his best friend Poppy, a deer mouse, to help him celebrate in a grand manner. But Poppy has gone off somewhere with her husband, Rye, and it appears she has forgotten all about it. "Belching Beavers," says Ereth, "I am not


Erethizon Dorsatum—better known as Ereth, the self-centered, foul-tempered old porcupine—is having a birthday. And he fully expects his best friend Poppy, a deer mouse, to help him celebrate in a grand manner. But Poppy has gone off somewhere with her husband, Rye, and it appears she has forgotten all about it. "Belching Beavers," says Ereth, "I am not angry!" (Though, perhaps he is—and more than just a little.)

Ereth knows his special occasion deserves a special treat—even if he has to get it for himself. And what treat could be more special than tasty salt? But the nearest salt is located deep in the forest, in a cabin occupied by fur hunters, who have set out traps to capture the Dimwood Forest animals. In one of the traps, Ereth finds Leaper the Fox—who, with her dying breath, begs the prickly porcupine to take care of her three boisterous young kits, Tumble, Nimble, and Flip. "Jellied walrus warts!" Ereth exclaims, but reluctantly agrees.

Certainly this day is not going as he planned—and it's only just the beginning! Not only does Ereth suddenly have a rambunctious new family to take care of, but he's being stalked by Marty the Fisher, the one creature in Dimwood Forest who can do him harm. And Bounder, the father of the three little foxes, remembers all too well the nose full of quills he got a while back from the grumpy old animal who now fancies himself the leader of the den. He too sets out to show Ereth who's boss. Throw in an unexpected snowstorm, and all in all, it adds up to one brithday Ereth the porcupine is never going to forget, not even if he lives to be a hundred and twenty-two!

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Avi's (Poppy; Poppy and Rye; Ragweed) Dimwood Forest tales continue with this story--equal parts humor and suspense--that puts a non-mouse character in the limelight for the first time. Convinced that his best friend Poppy and her family have overlooked his birthday, Ereth, a curmudgeonly porcupine, wanders off in search of his favorite treat--salt. What he finds instead is an adventure he hadn't counted on: surrogate parenthood. He promises a female fox dying in a hunter's trap that he will look after her three kits until their father returns. Keeping the trio fed and out of trouble proves a Herculean task, one that teaches Ereth much about the ties that bind even as it softens some of his rough edges. His steadfast if grumpy devotion is rewarded when the three save him from an attack by a cunning fisher (a furry, four-legged creature with a hankering for porcupines). Avi delivers another crackling good read, one shot through with memorable descriptions (snow "sleeved tree branches in white") and crisp, credible dialogue. Above all, showcasing Ereth allows the author free range with his cantankerous character's trademark asides ("Babies. Nothing but poop and puke, puke and poop") and outbursts ("Sour snake sauce on spaghetti!"), many of which will have readers chuckling. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature
"Go take a slide on a sludge pile!" is Ereth's advice to three young kids who have been left in his care by the mother fox, who has been caught in a trap and is dying. Ereth is a grumpy old porcupine that has set out on a journey to find something special for his birthday—like salt. His deer mouse friend has seemingly forgotten his birthday, which makes him even grumpier. His adventures in Dimwood Forest are cleverly chronicled by Avi with equal parts of imagination and poignant sympathy. The story is appealing because the author gives all the animals distinctive personalities and tells the tale with suspense, humor and insight into the foibles of man and beast. The author even manages to tuck in information about what wild animals eat and what they do to survive. Ereth's humorous comments range from "boiled badger boogers" to "you tub of tinsel twist." Brian Floca illustrates the story and makes all the animals real and endearing—especially the three little foxes. 2000, HarperCollins Children's Books. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Jean Leggett
Disappointed that friends have forgotten his birthday, the curmudgeonly porcupine Ereth skulks off through Dimwood Forest in search of his favorite food, salt. Along the way he discovers a mother fox caught in a trap. Obeying her dying wish, Ereth discovers her three lively kits and reluctantly cares for them. When the kits' father returns, Ereth unwillingly recognizes his strong feelings, love and jealousy intertwined. Heading home, his journey almost comes to a premature end when he meets the fisherman who has stalked him since the beginning of the novel. Middle school readers may not be surprised by the final plot twists, but they will delight in the way that good is triumphant and love is rewarded. The predatory nature of the animals in the final scenes adds a bit of realism, yet does not overwhelm. Ereth Birthday is a fine sequel to Ragweed, Poppy and Poppy and Rye. Genre: Animals/Fantasy. 2000, HarperCollins, 180 pp., $15.95. Ages 8 up. Reviewer: Kathy Pounds; Winston-Salem, North Carolina
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-Ereth, the irascible porcupine first introduced in Poppy (Orchard, 1995), is the unwilling star of this latest foray into Dimwood Forest. Thrown into a fit of pique because Poppy has apparently forgotten his birthday, Ereth waddles furiously off into the forest in search of his favorite treat-salt. Instead, he finds a mother fox caught in a trap; her dying wish is that the aging "porky" take care of her children. Against his better judgment, he finds and helps the three young foxes-and his experience actually softens his prickly nature. Ereth is a fabulously cranky creature with an epithet ("boiled badger boogers!" "jellied walrus warts") for every occasion. His inner battle between his newfound kindness and his desire to be left alone to stew in his own bile makes for an effective, touching, and very funny story. A hungry fisher on the prowl adds an element of danger, as do the presence of 16 steel traps hidden around the foxes' den. The bouncy and irrepressible young foxes see right through Ereth's crusty exterior, although young Tumble is at first resentful of him and wishes for his irresponsible father, who visits when he pleases, instead. Floca's black-and-white sketches of the animals are scattered throughout. This charming tale is a wonderful addition to the chronicles of Dimwood Forest.- Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
The gruff but good-hearted porcupine of Avi's Poppy tales gets an adventure of his own, along with plenty of opportunities to fulminate. Spouting lines like "squirrel-splat soup" and "phooey and fried salamander spit with a side order of rat ribbon," Ereth stomps away from his musty log convinced that neighbor Poppy and her large family have forgotten his birthday. Back he comes a month later, having survived heavy snows, hunters' traps, a predatory fisher's attack, and a promise made to a dying fox to care for her three kits. Of course, he finds a delicious gift and a much-relieved troop of deer mice waiting. Avi makes Ereth's sometimes-hilarious efforts to mother the hyperactive young foxes both the story's centerpiece and a sharp commentary on absent fathers. The kits' errant but much-admired dad, appropriately named "Bounder," checks in after a full week to boot Ereth out; too self-centered to care about anyone else, he abandons the kits again the next day. Though the tale is not free of conveniently overheard conversations and other contrivances, it generally moves along at a good clip, builds to a dramatic climax, comes to a joyful close, and features a lively mix of characters and moods. Like Eeyore (with a temper), Ereth will be a source of amusement for his dark moods and gloomy outlook. (Fiction. 10-12)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Poppy Stories Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.22(w) x 7.55(h) x 0.51(d)
610L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Ereth's Birthday

Chapter One

In Dimwood Forest, in the dark, smelly log where the old porcupine Erethizon Dorsatum lived, Ereth-as he preferred to call himself-woke slowly.

Not the sweetest smelling of creatures, Ereth had a flat face with a blunt, black nose and fierce, grizzled whiskers. As he stirred, he rattled his sharp if untidy quills, flexed his claws, yawned, frowned, and grumbled, "Musty moose marmalade," only to suddenly remember what day it was and smile. Today was his birthday.

Ereth had given very little thought to what he would do about the day. As far as he was concerned, his birthday meant others would be doing something for him. And the one he was quite certain would be doing all the providing was his best friend, Poppy.

Poppy, a deer mouse, lived barely an acorn toss from Ereth's log in a gray, lifeless tree-a snag with a hole on one side. She resided there with her husband, Rye, and their eleven children.

Ereth, in a very private sort of way, loved Poppy. He had never told anyone about this love, not even her. Enough for him to live near her. But since the porcupine was certain that Poppy thought of him as her best friend, he assumed she would be making a great fuss over his birthday. A party, certainly. Lavish gifts, of course. Best of all, he would be the center of attention.

So it was that when Ereth waddled out of his log that morning he was surprised not to find Poppy waiting for him. All he saw were her eleven children playing about the base of the snag, squeaking and squealing uproariously.

"Why can't young folks ever be still?" A deeply disappointed Ereth complained to himself. "Pottedpockets of grizzly grunions, it would save so much trouble if children were born . . . old."

Agitated, he approached the young mice. "Where's your mother?" he barked. "Where's your wilted wet flower of a father?"

"They . . . went . . . looking for . . . something," one of them said.

Though Ereth's heart sank, he made a show of indifference by lifting his nose scornfully and moving away from the young mice.

Snowberry, one of the youngsters, glanced anxiously around at the others, then cried out, "Good morning, Uncle Ereth!"

This greeting was followed by the ten other young mice singing out in a ragged, squeaky chorus, "Good morning, Uncle Ereth!"

Ereth turned and glowered at the youngsters. "What the tiddlywink toes do you want?" he snapped.

"Aren't you going to stay and play with us, Uncle Ereth?" Snowberry called.



"I'm . . . busy."

"You don't look busy."

"I'm trying to find some peace and quiet," Ereth snapped. "With all the noise you make, buzzard breath, what else do you think I'd be doing?"

One of the mice-her name was Columbine-slapped a paw over her mouth in order to keep from laughing out loud.

Ereth glared at her. "What are you laughing at?"

"You," Columbine sputtered. "You always say such funny things!"

"Listen here, you smidgen of slipper slobber," Ereth fumed. "Don't tell me I talk funny. Why don't you stuff your tiny tail into your puny gullet and gag yourself before I flip youinto some skunk-cabbage sauce and turn you into a pother of butterfly plunk?"

Instead of frightening the young mice, Ereth's outburst caused them to howl with glee. Sassafras laughed so hard he fell down and had to hold his stomach. "Uncle Ereth," he cried, "you are so hilarious! Please say something else!"

"Belching beavers!" Ereth screamed. "I am not hilarious! You're just a snarl of runty seed suckers with no respect for anyone older than you. How about a little consideration? As far as I'm concerned you mice have as much smarts as you could find in a baby bee's belly button."

"But you are funny, Uncle Ereth," cried another of the young mice, whose name was Walnut. "Nobody else talks like you do. We love it when you swear and get angry at us."

"I am not angry!" Ereth raged. "If I were angry, I'd turn you all into pink pickled pasta so fast it would make lightning look like a slow slug crawling up a slick hill. So listen up, you tub of tinsel twist."

This was too much for the young mice. They laughed and squeaked till their sides ached.

"Uncle Ereth," said Sassafras between giggles, "please-please-say something funny again. You are the funniest animal in the whole forest!"

Staring wrathfully at the young mice, Ereth considered uttering something unbelievably disgusting-dangling doggerels-thought better of it, and wheeled about, heading north as fast as he could.

"Uncle Ereth!" the mice shouted after him. "Please stay and say something else funny. Please don't go!"

But Ereth refused to stop.

Sassafras watched the porcupine plunge into the forest, then turned to the others. "But what are we going to tell Mom and Dad?" he cried. "They told us to make sure he didn't go anywhere."

"Oh, don't worry," Columbine assured her brother. "Uncle Ereth always comes back."

Ereth's Birthday. Copyright (c) by Avi . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Avi is the award-winning author of more than seventy-five books for young readers, ranging from animal fantasy to gripping historical fiction, picture books to young adult novels. Crispin: The Cross of Lead won the Newbery Medal, and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Nothing But the Truth were awarded Newbery Honors. He is also the author of the popular Poppy series. Avi lives outside Denver, Colorado. You can visit him online at

Brian Floca's illustrations have appeared in several books by Avi, including the six volumes of the Poppy stories and the graphic novel City of Light, City of Dark. For younger readers, he is the author and illustrator of Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo II as well as the highly praised books Lightship, a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book and ALA Notable Book; The Racecar Alphabet, also an ALA Notable Book; and Five Trucks.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 23, 1937
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964

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Ereth's Birthday (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My Third Grader read all five books ,she loved everyone. We are collecting all of the books written by Avi.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked the book because it was said, exciting, and happy. It was said because the foxes mom dies. It was ecxiting because the end where the foxes save Ereth. It was happy because Ereth does not leave the foxes
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is very funny (at least to me). It includes high details, good moral, and a good plot. It is one of the best story I have ever read. Avi is a good writer so I reccomend you to read this book
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got hooked on this series in the beginning of 4th grade and I'm so glad I did! Ereth really is a true hero and really deserves his present at the end. I would definately have him as my hero.