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A Beginning, a Muddle, and an End: The Right Way to Write Writing
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A Beginning, a Muddle, and an End: The Right Way to Write Writing

3.7 4
by Avi, Tricia Tusa (Illustrator)

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Avon the snail and Edward the ant are back for another funny--and philosophical--adventure. This time, Avon has decided he wants to be a writer, only to discover that writing is way more difficult than he ever imagined. He finally gets the word Something written down, but there's a problem: What to write next? Luckily, his friend Edward is there to


Avon the snail and Edward the ant are back for another funny--and philosophical--adventure. This time, Avon has decided he wants to be a writer, only to discover that writing is way more difficult than he ever imagined. He finally gets the word Something written down, but there's a problem: What to write next? Luckily, his friend Edward is there to advise.

Brimming with wit, wisdom, and humor, this warm and winning tale of two friends on a quest will be enjoyed by readers (and writers) of all ages.

Editorial Reviews

F. Todd Goodson
Avi continues the adventures of Avon the snail and Edward the ant in order to explore the process of writing and becoming a writer. Part fable, part Alice in Wonderland, a Beginning, a Muddle, and an End attempts to express wisdom about writing through the confusion that results from the characters' misunderstandings of concepts of writing. For example, when Avon declares, "I've always thought that it would be best to keep my writing on the light side," Edward replies, "Writing in the dark is harder." The entire book is a series (a muddle, perhaps) of similar explorations and insights, covering spelling, punctuation, and so on. And while the book exploits the genre conventions of children's literature, writers of all ages will appreciate the understanding Avon and Edward uncover through their discussions. In fact, the individual chapters could serve as springboards to serious discussions of the writing process by adolescent and adult writing classes and writing groups. Reviewer: F. Todd Goodson
VOYA - Leslie Wolfson
Avon the snail and Edward the ant, the characters from The End of the Beginning (Harcourt, 2004), are back for another adventure. Avon, who wants to record his life experiences on paper, has writer's block. He starts with the word "something" on a piece of paper, asking the advice of his buddy, Edward. Neither character is too bright, but their devotion and trust in each other is unflappable. The two main characters, as well as some other animals they encounter, exchange play-on-word repartee, such as the mother crow sitting on her eggs: "Eggs are always hard, but if you want children you have to sit on them. That's why parents have such a hard life." There is humor infused in the dialogue, which most young readers probably will not understand, but their parents will. Although Avon and Edward go on some minor adventures such as being swallowed and then spit out by a large fish, a lss Jonah and the whale, there is not much of a plot. By the end of the book, Avon still has writer's block but has accepted the fact that being in a muddle comes with the territory. This short book is divided into chapters, accompanied by captivating pencil illustrations. It is written entirely in dialogue, which may be distracting to some readers. Although it is marketed as middle grade, it would probably appeal to younger readers as well. Reviewer: Leslie Wolfson
Kirkus Reviews
Invertebrate and inadvertent punsters Avon the snail and Edward the ant explore new territory: storytelling. While Avon sets his cap at writing about-instead of undertaking-an adventure, Edward provides him with encouragement and advice. What makes a good story? How do you write one? Avon grapples with these large and challenging questions in 17 dialogue-filled short chapters, jam-packed with double meanings and plays on words and ideas. There's not much plot here for readers who require action and activity, but Avi's protagonists continue to radiate plenty of unprepossessing charm and kindness toward each other and the world around. Tusa's simple line drawings capture a snail's-eye view of the world of tree, leaf and bird, and bestow a droll sincerity on the faces of Avon and Edward. (Fiction. 8-12)

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.90(d)
530L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Read an Excerpt


In Which Avon Feels Low

It was a dull, rainy morning, utterly gloomy.
Inside his house, Avon, a rather small snail, was staring at a blank piece of paper that stood before him. Across the room, his friend Edward the ant was lying on his back, staring up at the ceiling, which was just as blank.
Avon sighed. “The truth is, Edward,” he said, “I’ve read a lot of adventures. And I’ve been on my own adventures. But I’m making no progress writing about my adventures.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” said Edward. “Do you know anything about why?”
“I’m pretty sure it’s at the end of the alphabet,” said Avon, “next to Z.”
“I mean,” said Edward, “that when writing goes poorly, it sometimes has to do with how you are feeling. Can you tell me how you feel?”
“Well, my spirits are . . . down.”
“Avon, must I remind you? We live in a tree. You’re actually up.”
“Then how can I be so low?”
“Avon,” said Edward, “would-be writers often think attitude is most important. More often than not, it’s altitude.”
“I’ve never looked at things that way,” said Avon.
“Then it’s time for you to look another way,” suggested Edward. “After all, if you’re looking down, it’s only logical to assume you’re up. But if you’re looking up, you must be down. Still, I must advise you, some think it’s best to be neither high nor low, but in the middle.”
“I don’t think,” said Avon, “I’ve ever heard anyone say, ‘I’m feeling middle.’”
“Perhaps you need to get a grip on yourself,” said Edward.
“Edward!” cried Avon. “How can I get a grip when I have no hands?”
“My apologies,” said Edward in haste. “I some-times forget that we ants have a lot of hands.”
“I always thought they were legs,” said Avon.
“It depends.”
“On what?”
“Sometimes it’s better to have a leg up. Other moments it’s good to be handy.”
“My mother thought I was handsome,” said Avon. “I’ve always tried to hold on to that. Will that get me anyplace?”
“Avon!” cried Edward. “Don’t go anyplace. Go someplace.”
“What’s wrong with anyplace?”
“You’ll never find it on a map,” said Edward.
“But what does place have to do with writing?”
“Avon,” said Edward, “to write well, you need to know where you are going. My guess is that your writing has lost all sense of direction.”
“It’s hard for me to have a sense of direction,” said Avon, “when I didn’t even know I was supposed to go someplace.”
“Avon, trust me. Great writing depends on your height: low, middle, or high.”
“I’d like my writing to be right up there on the top,” said Avon.
“Nothing could be easier,” said Edward. “Because living where we do, as I’ve said, up in a tree, you’re halfway there.”
“Sounds like a plan,” said Avon.
“Perfect,” said Edward. “Because when it comes to writing, it’s wise to start with a plan.”
Avon brightened. “My plan has always been to write.”
“Exactly,” said Edward. “Write first. You can always figure out what you’ve written later.”

Text copyright © 2008 by Avi

Illustrations copyright © 2008 by Tricia Tusa

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at www.harcourt.com/contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Meet the Author

AVI has written many acclaimed books for young readers, including The Secret School, The End of the Beginning, and A Beginning, a Muddle, and an End. His novel Crispin: The Cross of Lead was awarded the Newbery Medal, and Nothing But the Truth: A Documentary Novel and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle were named Newbery Honor books. He lives in Colorado.            

TRICIA TUSA has written and illustrated many wonderful picture books, including In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck; Mrs. Spitzer's Garden by Edith Pattou; The Magic Hat by Mem Fox; The End of the Beginning by Avi; and her own Follow Me.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 23, 1937
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964

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Beginning, a Muddle, and an End: The Right Way to Write Writing 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like the snail
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a little gem! In the midst of large and complicated but listless novels lies a genuinely sweet-hearted story. The tale of two friends embarking on a journey of exploring the writing process converts into a personal discovery of the person within. Complete with laugh-out-loud scenarios, jumpy/edgy situations, and a lovely bond that sinks into your heart as softly as a billowing breeze, this novella is unbelievably amazing. Also, this carefully crafted tale proves to have a plot after all. Hey, critics, I guess you have poor judgment! Good Job Avi!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I used this book in my 4th grade classroom to emphasize certain things I wanted to teach about writing. The students loved the double meanings and idioms and we had good conversations about the way the author made writing fun. Personally I think it was cleverly written and fun to read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
As I started reading, ¿A Beginning a Muddle and an End,¿ I thought to myself that the second book would be by far more interesting than the first book. I always have high expectations for Avi¿s books. This time, this book¿everything was the opposite. The plot was a disaster. At first, the beginning was laughable and fun to discuss the funny word usage. Then the book went down hill. The book, ¿The End of the Beginning¿ was about an adventure while ¿A Beginning, A Muddle and an End¿ was about Avon writing. All went well in the first book but then the second book was like a flower wilting in Death Valley on a summer afternoon. I am really sorry, but Avi¿s writing did not impress me in this book. I know that he can write better and include funny parts, but really ¿A Beginning, a Muddle and an End¿ was BLAH!