The other day I was Skyping with two very different schools—one a public school audience of 500, the other a private school with an audience of six. I was asked two questions, one of which I’m always asked. The other question I have never been asked.
Question one: “In the book Poppy why does Ragweed have to die?”
I am often asked that.
When I wrote Poppy it had never even entered my head that it would be part of a series, never mind book three of a seven-book run. Thus, when I wrote Poppy it was to be a stand-alone. The tale relates how Poppy, at first shy, and adverse to risk, becomes bold and daring. To do so effectively I thought she needed to go up against a formidable foe. It was not enough to say that the owl, Mr. Ocax, was a dangerous enemy—he eats mice—I had to show him being so. As I wrote that book, the cruel demise of Ragweed certainly made that point. It gave Poppy’s adventure real tension.
But a curious thing happened. As I went on to write the other books, the spirit—if you will—of Ragweed kept creeping into all the books. There is even a Ragweed Junior in the book Poppy and Ereth.
But after a while, I felt compelled to write Ragweed’s own story, and that appears in Ragweed.
Then I began to be called upon to notice the big gap in the whole saga: that is, how did Poppy and Ragweed meet? That is precisely the story I have told in the forthcoming Ragweed and Poppy which will be published this next spring.
So overall, Ragweed has a big role to play in the saga.
Question two: Do the creatures in Poppy have last names?
That’s a question I have never been asked.
One of the joys of writing for young people is the imaginative and interesting ways they respond to the stories. One learns a lot. Their sense of reality is our adult’s sense of fantasy. It’s perfectly understandable that a child feels that a last name is important. It’s a key part of their identity, their family. Clearly I, (who go solely under the name Avi) don’t think so. Indeed, the truth is I never thought of last names for these creatures, although perhaps Ereth, who derived his name from his scientific designation (Erethizon Dorsatum) comes close.
But when I was asked that question, I was delighted by the idea, and so we discussed it a bit. I suggested they come up with last names. They promised to do so, and send them to me.