Avi was born in 1937 and grew up in Brooklyn NY. He is five minutes older than his twin sister, who was the first to call him Avi. Avi is the only name he uses now. He grew up in a literature rich family. His father was a doctor and his mother became a social worker. He loved reading. Every night he was read to, and he visited the library often. Even as a young child he had his own collection of books.
He worked as a full-time librarian for many years, first at the New York Public Library and then at Trenton State College in New Jersey. He now lives in Denver with his wife. He began writing as a playwrite, and says he wrote many bad plays! After his first son, Shaun, was born, he started writing books for children. His first book, Things That Sometimes Happen, was published in 1970. He has since written many books for young readers. His writing crosses many genres, including early readers, picture books, fantasy, realism, animal stories, historical fiction, and mystery. He has won many awards, and in 2002 he won the Newberry Award for Crispin, Cross of Lead.
He had to work hard to reach his great achievements. He had a learning disability called disgraphia, which caused him to switch letters around and misspell words. He says that he enjoys writing, but it is hard work, and he has to write things over and over again, so that on average it can take him a year to finish a book. When he visits schools, he likes to talk with students who are struggling. He pulls out his own work, which is covered with red markings from his editor, and shows the students that even he has to struggle to get things right. His determination in overcoming his challenges is an inspiration for all readers and writers, young and old.
You can read more about Avi, see the books he's written, and even arrange to have Avi visit your school through Skype by visiting his website at http://www.avi-writer.com.
Books of Interest
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1990)
This book is a gripping historical fiction. The setting, on a ship with a mutinous crew, is well developed. The reader is drawn into the life on the ship and accurate descriptions of ship and crew make the reader feel as if they are actually climbing the main mast, sails, and rigging right along with thirteen-year-old Charlotte Doyle. Danger, mystery, and suspense are craftily woven into the story. As the character experiences the events of the story, she naturally evolves into a new person, and the reader evolves along with her. Boys and girls will enjoy reading this novel.
Poppy illustrated by Brian Floca (1995)
The animals have vivid personalities and dialogues in this book. The animals’ characters and personalities are shown by their dialogue, and interactions with each other. Readers are able to “get to know” the animals for themselves, as if making new friends, instead of reading detailed descriptions of the animals' personalities. The adventure helps to show how ignorance is captivity, and knowledge is what sets you free.
Crispin: Cross of Lead (2003)
Even though this story is set hundreds of years ago in medieval Europe, it is still a story children can relate to today. The characters have qualities that transcend time and place. Crispin’s friendship with Bear is a touching journey from servitude to a father-son like relationship. The insight that one gets from seeing the world through the young peasant’s eyes, makes the reader appreciate the opportunities of today, and recognize the disparity in society that is not exclusive to any one time period. Readers will find the book a historically educational, and an intriguing read.
The Mayor of Central Park illus. by Brian Floca (2003)
This story is set in turn of the century New York City, with dialect to match. The entire book, narration and dialogue, is written in the stylized gangster language of turn-of-the-century New York. The story is ripe with alliteration, creative similes, and witty, humorous language. The story has a simple flare to it, while still dealing with serious issues. Young readers will be delighted by the vivid language in the tale. They will also be able to relate to the small animals that have to stick up for their rights at Central Park.
Iron Thunder: The Battle Between the Monitor & the Merimac (2007)
Iron Thunder is set during the civil war. The story opens up the world of the civil war and you feel like you really are in the battle with the ships. Once again, Avi weaves a fictional story around actual historic facts and events. The way he brings together fact and fiction makes it an exciting and informative read. As the character works on the ship, a vivid picture of the precarious state of the nation during the civil war is painted. Also, a sense of admiration is built by learning about the daring determination of Captain Ericsson in inventing the Monitor. Maps, time-period illustrations, and a glossary help to provide information. Readers will enjoy reading this historical adventure.
Seer of Shadows (2008)
Horace Carpentine is an apprentice to a lazy photographer. When his master is asked to take pictures for a woman mourning the death of her daughter, the photographer decides to include a seemingly ghostly apparition of her daughter in the photo. However, Horace actually sees the angry daughter in the developed photos, and needs to find out what she is trying to tell him. Avi includes actual information about early photography. Descriptions of the process of developing a film are woven into the story, so that the reader gets a feeling for what photography was like long ago. While entertaining as a great suspenseful, ghostly tale, the reader also gets insight into what hard work and honesty can bring, and what harm may be caused by dishonesty, deceit, and mistreatment of others.
Avi has written more than 70 books. While they are varied in style, genre and story line, a common thread in all of Avi’s writing is its appeal to readers, young and old, even reluctant readers. The fast pacing and exciting language make all of his books excellent reading. Avi’s writing embraces the settings in which they are written. The characters are alive and real. The historical fiction paints a vivid and accurate picture of the events included. His fantasies draw the reader into the world illustrated. The animal books bring out seemingly accurate depictions of real animals, as though you are joining their world. His stories draw the reader in, inviting one to re-read and revisit these worlds again and again.
Avi biography. (n.d.) Retrieved April 19, 2011, from http//www2.scholastic.com/browse/contributor.jsp?id=3262&print=2
Avi (2003). Crispin: The cross of lead. New York, NY: Hyperion
Avi (2007). Iron thunder: The battle between the Monitor & the Merimac. New York, NY: Hyperion
Avi, illustrated by Brian Floca (2003). The mayor of central park. New York, NY: HarperCollins
Avi, illustrated by Brian Floca (1995). Poppy. New York, NY: Scholastic
Avi (2008). Seer of shadows. New York, NY: HarperCollins
Avi (1990). The true confessions of Charlotte Doyle. New York, NY: Avon Books
A Writer Among Us: Avi. (2010) Teacher Librarian,37, 74-75.
Kirshenbaum, G. (1998) Breakfast serials are a new way for kids to start the day. School Library Journal, 44(12), 13.
LeJeune, M., & Draper C. (2010). Mentoring the writer within: a conversation with Avi. Journal of Children’s Literature, 36(1),77-81.
Winarski, D. (1997) Avi on fiction. Teaching PreK-8, 28, p.62-64.
The official Avi website: http://www.avi-writer.com
Author interview: http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/interviews/p/avi.htm