RAGWEED By Avi Avon Books 192 pp., $15 Ages 9-12
It's another story of a country mouse and a town mouse, but in "Ragweed" the country mouse leads an urban revolution and the city mouse is a skateboard punk-rocker who speaks like a hip urban teen.
With a cast of admirable, laughable characters and an action-packed story, Avi's latest addition to his tales from Dimwood Forest will charm even the most sophisticated young reader.
In this spunky animal fantasy, a prequel to "Poppy" and "Poppy and Rye," Avi introduces the early adventures of Ragweed, the heroic and idealistic young mouse who sets out to see the world and finds himself in a city full of intrigue and danger.
As he steps off the train, Ragweed's first taste of city life is the threatening welcome of Silversides, a frustrated domestic cat. President and founder of Felines Enraged Against Rodents (FEAR), Silversides is determined to return the society of Amperville to its previous order, before mice became uppity.
Ragweed is rescued just in time by Clutch, a cool mouse who lives in an abandoned '66 Ford Mustang. Adorned with green hair and a purple bead earring, she plays wooden-spoon guitar with her band, the Be-Flat Tires, and impresses Ragweed with a 180 and a grind on her miniature skateboard.
In a close encounter with Silversides at the Cheese Squeeze Club, where the band plays, Ragweed saves Clutch's life by lodging her skateboard between the open jaws of the cat as she pounces on her prey. After this violent episode, Ragweed leads the mice in an effort to assert their rightful place in the big city.
Blinker, the mouse who usurps Silversides's throne on her owner's pillow, parallels Ragweed's adventures when he escapes from his home and stumbles upon the world he never knew as a pet. We share in his delight as he discovers the novelty and excitement of feet-tickling grass, sweet-smelling flowers, puddles, and romance.
Complementing Avi's vivid story, Brian Floca's expressive pencil illustrations punctuate the text effectively, lending to its upbeat pace while at the same time embellishing the humor and sweetness of the tale.
Sophisticated readers will notice the undercurrent of social commentary implicit in Avi's text, but most readers will simply enjoy the adventure for its delightful charm and enthusiasm.
*Enicia Fisher teaches children's literature at Principia College in Elsah, Ill.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society