cover image Ereth's Birthday

Ereth's Birthday

Avi. HarperCollins, $17.99 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97734-5

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)