Ereth's Birthday (Poppy Stories Series)

( 8 )

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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!

Feeling neglected on his birthday, Ereth, the cantankerous old porcupine, sets out looking for his favorite treat and instead finds himself acting as "mother" to three young fox kits.

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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
From The Critics
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
From The Critics
This fourth entry to Avi's popular Dimwood Forest tales moves away from Poppy, her mouse family, to hear from Erethizon Dorsatum, the prickly porcupine whom readers have taken to their hearts as fully as have Poppy's eleven children. The animal fantasy opens as Ereth awakens on his birthday and leaves his log to search for Poppy and her husband Rye. Ereth is sure that Poppy has planned something special for his birthday. But when the mouse children greet his snippy queries with laughter, the dejected Ereth proudly points his nose to the forest where he decides to soothe the wounds to his ego with salt, that most delicious and wonderful of porcupine treats. Ereth's journey through Dimwood Forest soon takes on the dimension of an heroic quest. Bad weather sets in and the best source of salt lies well-guarded by humans—and these humans are setting animal traps well-hidden by the piling snow. Avi pits the humor of Ereth's salivating desire for salt against very real threats to his safety. Not only are the humans dangerous, but so is the silent shadowy Marty the Fisher who has pursued Ereth and who has a particular revenge to exact against him. Ereth meets each challenge he faces with his characteristic grumbling valiancy. Even though salt calls him, he can't ignore the weakened cries for help he hears coming from the forest. And, when he finds a mother fox, bleeding and dying in the humans' trap, he can't ignore her plea to locate and care for her three children. Avi's masterful hand moderates the genuine emotional despair of these orphans against the tender comedy of the porcupine's generosity in exposing his warm belly in the fox's den to keep his new charges warm. This novel thriveson its celebration of unlikely domesticity. The vegetarian Ereth helps the carnivorous foxes find their mother's winter-stash of meat by sniffing out its repulsive odor. The spry, if naïve, foxes quickly prove themselves worthy as they contrive a plan to use snowballs to find and spring the humans' traps. When their father returns home, the children give him the adoring welcome he expects, but they soon return to Ereth as their tried and true protector and nurturer. In turn, Ereth grudgingly embraces the "family fungus," admits his love for the foundlings, and brings them home to Poppy's family. Ereth reminds one of Pooh's Eeyore. His colorful language and sprightly alliteration flavor this gratifying story about an old porcupine who discovers himself anew—on his birthday. 2000, HarperCollins, $15.95. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Cathryn M. Mercier — The Five Owls, September/October 2000 (Vol. 15 No. 1)
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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380804900
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/2001
  • Series: Poppy Stories Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 124,997
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 7.55 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Avi

Avi is the author of more than sixty books, including Crispin: The Cross of Lead, a Newbery Medal winner, and Crispin: At the Edge of the World. His other acclaimed titles include The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Nothing But the Truth, both Newbery Honor Books, and most recently The Seer of Shadows. He lives with his family in Colorado.

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.

Biography

Born in Manhattan in 1937, Avi Wortis grew up in Brooklyn in a family of artists and writers. Despite his bright and inquisitive nature, he did poorly in school. After several academic failures, he was diagnosed with a writing impairment called dysgraphia which caused him to reverse letters and misspell words. The few writing and spelling skills he possessed he had gleaned from his favorite hobby, reading -- a pursuit enthusiastically encouraged in his household.

Following junior high school, Avi was assigned to a wonderful tutor whose taught him basic skills and encouraged in him a real desire to write. "Perhaps it was stubbornness," he recalled in an essay appearing on the Educational Paperback Association's website, "but from that time forward I wanted to write in some way, some form. It was the one thing everybody said I could not do."

Avi finally learned to write, and well! He attended Antioch University, graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and received a master's degree in library science from Columbia in 1964. He worked as a librarian for the New York Public Library's theater collection and for Trenton State College, and taught college courses in children's literature, while continuing to write -- mostly plays -- on the side. In the 1970s, with two sons of his own, he began to craft stories for children. "[My] two boys loved to hear stories," he recalled. "We played a game in which they would give me a subject ('a glass of water') and I would have to make up the story right then. Out of that game came my first children's book, Things That Sometimes Happen." A collection of "Very Short Stories for Little Listeners," Avi's winning debut received very positive reviews. "Sounding very much like the stories that children would make up themselves," raved Kirkus Reviews, "these are daffy and nonsensical, starting and ending in odd places and going sort of nowhere in the middle. The result, however, is inevitably a sly grin."

Avi has gone on to write dozens of books for kids of all ages. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1991) and Nothing but the Truth (1992) were named Newbery Honor Books, and in 2003, he won the prestigious Newbery Medal for his 14th-century adventure tale, Crispin: The Cross of Lead. His books range from mysteries and adventure stories to historical novels and coming-of-age tales; and although there is often a strong moral core to his work, he leavens his message with appealing warmth and humor. Perhaps his philosophy is summed up best in this quote from his author profile on Scholastic's website: "I want my readers to feel, to think, sometimes to laugh. But most of all I want them to enjoy a good read."

Good To Know

In a Q&A with his publisher, Avi named Robert Louis Stevenson as one of his greatest inspirations, noting that "he epitomizes a kind of storytelling that I dearly love and still read because it is true, it has validity, and beyond all, it is an adventure."

When he's not writing, Avi enjoys photography as one of his favorite hobbies.

Avi got his unique nickname from his twin sister, Emily..

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    1. Also Known As:
      Avi Wortis (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 23, 1937
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964
    2. Website:

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.

"No!"

"Why?"

"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.
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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012

    Excellent series of books.

    My Third Grader read all five books ,she loved everyone. We are collecting all of the books written by Avi.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2007

    A reviewer

    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

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2001

    Funny

    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

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2001

    Avi rocks!!!

    THIS BOOK IS FUNNY YOU WILL FALL OF YOUR CHAIR LAUGHING THIS BOOK IS VERY FUNNY YOU SOULD READ THIS BOOK.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2001

    Avi rocks!

    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.

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    Posted July 29, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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