Book Review: “Ragweed” by Avi

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by Avi

In the third of his four Tales from Dimwood Forest, Avi shares with us the youthful adventures of a spirited, golden mouse named Ragweed, as he leaves his peaceful home and family along the brook to explore the world. At a fork in the road, where he has a choice of going to the city or to the forest of Dimwood, he chooses the city. A city where a whole neighborhood, near the railroad tracks, has been abandoned by men and allowed to become Mouse Town.

From the beginning, however, Ragweed learns that some cats in Amperville don’t like the idea of Mouse Town. Two cats in particular — a white house cat named Silversides and a sewer cat named Graybar — form F.E.A.R. (Felines Enraged Against Rodents), bent on destroying the mouse subculture in Amperville.

But Ragweed joins forces with a mouse rock band, fronted by a dyed-haired, earring-toting female named Clutch, and a white pet mouse who has run away from the same house Silversides lives in. Together with some friends, they plan a new mouse club — Café Independent — and a new mouse attitude of fighting back against cats. Who will get the upper paw? It comes down to a matter of courage, cooperation, friendship, and cleverness.

This is one of the most adorable stories I have read in the genre of “talking animals and especially mice.” With deft humor and personal warmth, Avi creates mouse and cat characters who are really thinly-diguised people, dealing with real-people issues like anger management, coming of age, loyalty to your friends, fighting for freedom, and looking for your place in the world.

I strongly urge you to ignore the order in which Harper Trophy lists the books in this series, and read this book after Poppy and Poppy and Rye, the order the books were written and published. Even for those of you who insist on reading this book first, because of the way the series is listed or because it is a prequel, I know you are going to fall in love with Ragweed. When you do, no doubt you will want to read the other books in this series, starting with Poppy. All I can say is brace yourself.