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Literature / Tales from Dimwood Forest

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Tales From Dimwood Forest, also known as The Poppy Stories, are a series of books aimed at young adults by prolific author Avi, centering around the inhabitants of the titular forest.

The first title published was Poppy, telling of the titular deer mouse and her family's troubles with the owl Mr. Ocax. After Ocax kills her fiance Ragweed, Poppy embarks on a quest to keep her family safe, befriending a porcupine named Ereth and freeing the forest of Mr. Ocax's extortionary reign in the process.

From there, the series deals with the consequences of Ragweed's death for Poppy and his family, while beavers are destroying their home. Poppy gains a love interest in Ragweed's brother Rye. Later books include a prequel about Ragweed and A Day in the Limelight for Ereth.

The full series includes:

  • Poppy (1995)
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  • Poppy and Rye (1998)
  • Ragweed (1999)note 
  • Ereth's Birthday (2000)
  • Poppy's Return (2005)
  • Poppy and Ereth (2009)
  • Ragweed and Poppy (2020)

Tropes found in Tales From Dimwood Forest:

  • Action Girl: Poppy becomes one.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The ending to Poppy and Ereth.
  • Animal Jingoism: Some of the predators hold speciesist prejudices against mice as a secondary or supporting reason for killing or eating them; Silversides the cat, for one, hates mice for their habits, boldness, and the way they've—in her view—come to "own" the city (and even the human house) she grew up in. It's to this end she and Graybar form a Klan-esque club to terrorise and kill as many city mice as they can manage, though no other city cats show interest.
  • Animal Talk: Most of the animals can talk with each other, but not with humans.
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  • Attending Your Own Funeral: Poppy in Poppy and Ereth does so to show that she is actually alive.
  • Babies Ever After: In the final chapter of Poppy, Poppy is revealed to have had children with Rye.
  • Badass Adorable: Poppy.
  • Bat Out of Hell: Subverted by the bats in Poppy and Ereth. They are often thought of as being unpleasant by other animals, but prove to be friendly and end up saving the day.
  • Bears Are Bad News: A bear and its cub briefly threaten Poppy in Poppy's Return.
  • Big Bad: Mr. Ocax in Poppy, Castor Canad in Poppy and Rye, Silversides in Ragweed, and Marty in Ereth's Birthday.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Ereth, frequently.
    • The fox kits save him in Ereth's Birthday.
    • Mephitis saves Poppy from a bear in Poppy's Return.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The beavers pretend to be friendly and understanding, but actually care only about expanding their lake.
  • Blithe Spirit: Ragweed formerly served as this while with Poppy's family.
  • Carnivore Confusion: The series generally takes the "predation is a fact of life" approach. Interestingly, predators portrayed as being villainous often spin a variation on this, holding grudges against and manipulating specific individuals, and tend to have other agendas besides satisfying their hunger (speciesist prejudice, for one).
  • Cats Are Mean:
    • Played with in Ragweed. The villainess and The Dragon are cats with an agenda of destroying all mice, but when they try to recruit followers the rest of the city's cats aren't interested in joining them.
    • Averted in Poppy. Our heroine has a brief but friendly conversation with George the cat, getting some vital information from him. George is much too old to hunt, so he might have been more dangerous as a young cat, but given the tone of the series there was likely nothing malicious about it.
  • The Cavalry: The bats in Poppy and Ereth.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: Ereth in Poppy and Rye.
  • Character Tics: Poppy's mother, Sweet Cicely, is mentioned to have one in that she constantly flicks at her ears "as if they were dusty."
  • Character Title: Poppy, Poppy and Rye, Ragweed, Poppy and Ereth.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The water hose in Ragweed.
    • The block of salt in Poppy.
    • The boulder the mice move under in Poppy and Rye.
    • The traps set by the trappers in Ereth's Birthday.
    • Ragweed's earring in Poppy and Ereth.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • The fox that chases Poppy into Ereth's log in the first book gets a name (Bounder) and a larger role in Ereth's Birthday and Poppy and Ereth.
    • The bats in Poppy and Ereth.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Blinker's experience with running on a wheel.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Mephitis isn't even mentioned in the last book.
  • The City: Amperville, the human city setting of Ragweed. Its mouse population unsurprisingly lives in what to its humans is the ghetto or run-down part of town.
  • Cool Old Guy: Ereth, once one gets over his abrasive mannerisms. Poppy eventually becomes one as she ages.
  • Cool Sword: The quill Poppy gets from Ereth functions as a rapier; she even wears it around her waist on a grass belt.
  • Dark Secret: Mr. Ocax is afraid of porcupines and the fake owl at New House. He lies to the mice about porcupines being bloodthirsty predators and stops them from moving to New House to prevent them from finding this out (and thus discovering ways to protect themselves from him).
  • David Versus Goliath: Whenever the mice go up against their much larger enemies.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Ereth's Birthday for Ereth.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Ragweed Jr.
  • A Death in the Limelight: Narrowly averted for Ereth.
  • Deuteragonist: Rye is this to Poppy in Poppy and Rye.
  • Distressed Dude: Rye is held hostage by the beavers for most of the climax in Poppy and Rye.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": Ereth's full name (Erethizon Dorsatum) is the scientific name of his species. Other examples include Castor P. Canad (from Castor canadensis), Mephitis (from Mephitis mephitis), and Lucifugus Myotis (from Myotis lucifugus).
  • Doomed by Canon: Ragweed. Particularly jarring for those who start the series with Ragweed, since he dies in the first couple pages of Poppy.
  • The Dragon: Graybar for Silversides.
  • Enemy Mine: Bounder and Poppy in Poppy and Ereth.
  • Explosive Breeder: The mice, duh. Poppy and Rye themselves have eleven children between them, and that's probably on the low end, so their extended families number into the high dozens or even the hundreds, evident whenever any extended family gathering or meeting is called.
  • Feathered Fiend: Mr. Ocax.
  • Final Exam Finale: Poppy and Ereth.
  • Five-Man Band: In Ragweed:
    The Leader: Ragweed
    The Lancer: Clutch
    The Smart Guy: Blinker
    The Big Guy: Dipstick
    The Heart: Lugnut
    • In particular, Clutch, Lugnut, and Dipstick form an actual band, with Clutch on guitar and Dipstick on drums.
  • Floral Theme Naming: The forest mice are all named after plants.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Since Rye was introduced as Poppy's husband in the final chapter of Poppy, the reader knows he and Poppy will fall in love in Poppy and Rye.
  • Generation Xerox: Ragweed Jr. Later on, his son Spruce.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Ereth.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Blinker. Not that he was ever malicious to begin with.
  • Her Heart Will Go On: Ragweed for Poppy.
  • Heroic BSoD: Poppy's father, Lungwort, after Mr. Ocax presents him with a Sadistic Choice: let Poppy be killed by Ocax or have the rest of the mouse family starve.
  • Improvised Weapon:
    • Ereth already uses his quills as weapons, but the mice make use of his shed ones as well.
    • They also use sticks, stones, and mud in the battle against the beavers.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Poppy and Ereth. Of course, Poppy, being a mouse, ages quickly and is quite old herself by the end of the series.
  • Interspecies Romance: Poppy (a deer mouse) and Ragweed, and later Rye (both golden mice).
  • It's All About Me: Ereth often comes off as this and often has thoughts and rants that reinforce it, even despite his friendship with Poppy and his helping her and her loved ones out. This really takes off when he derails the eulogy planned for Poppy's funeral by making his short remarks about her … long and quite blatant remarks about himself; of course, it could be his grief coping mechanism.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ereth, big time.
  • Lighter and Softer: The last two books have no true villain.
  • A Lizard Named "Liz": Marty the Fisher's name may have been inspired by the scientific name of his species (Martes pennanti) at the time Ereth's Birthday was written. The fisher is now classified in the genus Pekania.
  • The Lost Lenore: Ragweed is a male example of this to Poppy.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Clutch and Blinker.
  • Meaningful Name: Almost everyone. The forest mice tend to be named after plants that symbolize their personalities while the city mice are named after car parts. Several characters (notably Ereth) have names derived directly from their species' scientific names.
  • The Mole: Silversides forces Blinker to be one. Naturally, he isn't comfortable with it and does a Heel–Face Turn later.
  • Official Couple: Rye and Poppy.
  • Ominous Owl: Mr. Ocax the great horned owl is the Big Bad of the first book.
  • Parental Substitute: Ereth unwillingly serves as one for three fox kits for some time.
  • Partially Civilized Animal: The mice in particular are portrayed this way. They have somewhat human-like social structures, occasionally use tools (e.g.: weaponizing sticks and shed porcupine quills), and some individuals wear accessories, but their overall behavior and concerns still reflect the fact that they are mice.
  • Plucky Girl: Poppy.
  • Predators Are Mean: Other than the beavers, all the antagonists are predators of the main characters. Interestingly though, said antagonists tend to have other personal reasons for harming the heroes besides just hunger.
  • Prickly Porcupine: Ereth. Mr. Ocax told Poppy's family that porcupines were vicious predators who used their quills to eviscerate their prey as a means of controlling them in the first book, but Poppy discovered that wasn't true after meeting Ereth.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Poppy in Poppy and Ereth.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Played straight and subverted with Rye. It's played straight in that his very first appearance is in the last chapter of Poppy, where he's introduced in only the final few pages as Poppy's husband and the father of her children, with nothing known about him beyond that, but it's subverted in Poppy and Rye, where he gets a personality and backstory.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Ereth.
  • Second Love: Rye is this for Poppy.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: Golden mice, grasshopper mice, pygmy mice, and fishers.
  • Settle for Sibling: Poppy eventually marries Rye, Ragweed's younger brother.
  • Shown Their Work: The animals' habits and appearances are portrayed extremely accurately.
  • Smelly Skunk: Mephitis.
  • Snow Means Death: In Ereth's Birthday, Leaper, the vixen, who dies as a result of getting caught in a human hunters' steel trap, in the middle of a harsh winter. She already lost a lot of blood when Ereth happens upon her. Ereth himself nearly gets killed by Marty the Fisher if not for Leaper's kits (whom she asked him to care for) saving him.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Rye in Poppy and Ereth.
  • Theme Naming: The forest mice tend to be named after plants, whereas the city mice are named after car parts.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Salt for Ereth. Truth in Television; porcupines are crazy about salt.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Ragweed's earring. Which ironically belonged to Clutch, but Poppy never finds that out.
  • The Unsmile: The perpetually-unsmiling Ereth, naturally, when he forces himself to smile in the run-up to Poppy's (supposed) funeral service.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Ereth supplies an infinite number of these in his frequent rants.
  • Vehicular Theme Naming: The city mice are named after car parts.
  • Villainous Gentrification: The beavers' dam and pond, which flood out the Brook's other animal residents (in particular its golden mouse community) and force them to move. The planned beaver lodges are even named "Canad's Cute Condos".
  • Welcome to the Big City: Ragweed's installment.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Rye.
  • Wicked Weasel: Though not quite a weasel, Marty the Fisher is a villainous mustelid.
  • The Worf Effect: After doing the Big Damn Hero part in the previous two books he appeared in and generally being an irritable grump who does whatever and goes wherever he wants, Ereth is stalked and attacked by a fisher, the one predator that knows how to reliably hunt porcupines, in his own Day in the Limelight.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Mr. Ocax has no qualms with trying to kill Poppy. Nor does Bounder. Which is to be expected, as they are predators and food is food regardless of what gender it is.
  • Xenophobic Herbivore:
    • Speciesism in the series is hardly limited to its predators, as Lungwort's ill-informed, irrational, hatred or fear of porcupines as supposed quill-shooting mouse-eaters also attests.
    • Then there's Ereth, of course; while he's already curmudgeonly towards nearly everyone, he particularly despises hunters and predators (especially ever since befriending Poppy), the fox kits he ends up babysitting being a rare exception.

Alternative Title(s): The Poppy Stories, Poppy, Ragweed, Poppy And Rye, Ereths Birthday, Poppys Return, Poppy And Ereth