Born in Manhattan in 1937, Avi Wortis grew up in Brooklyn in a family of artists and writers. Despite his bright and inquisitive nature, he did poorly in school. After several academic failures, he was diagnosed with a writing impairment called dysgraphia which caused him to reverse letters and misspell words. The few writing and spelling skills he possessed he had gleaned from his favorite hobby, reading -- a pursuit enthusiastically encouraged in his household.
Following junior high school, Avi was assigned to a wonderful tutor whose taught him basic skills and encouraged in him a real desire to write. "Perhaps it was stubbornness," he recalled in an essay appearing on the Educational Paperback Association's website, "but from that time forward I wanted to write in some way, some form. It was the one thing everybody said I could not do."
Avi finally learned to write, and well! He attended Antioch University, graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and received a master's degree in library science from Columbia in 1964. He worked as a librarian for the New York Public Library's theater collection and for Trenton State College, and taught college courses in children's literature, while continuing to write -- mostly plays -- on the side. In the 1970s, with two sons of his own, he began to craft stories for children. "[My] two boys loved to hear stories," he recalled. "We played a game in which they would give me a subject ('a glass of water') and I would have to make up the story right then. Out of that game came my first children's book, Things That Sometimes Happen." A collection of "Very Short Stories for Little Listeners," Avi's winning debut received very positive reviews. "Sounding very much like the stories that children would make up themselves," raved Kirkus Reviews, "these are daffy and nonsensical, starting and ending in odd places and going sort of nowhere in the middle. The result, however, is inevitably a sly grin."
Avi has gone on to write dozens of books for kids of all ages. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1991) and Nothing but the Truth (1992) were named Newbery Honor Books, and in 2003, he won the prestigious Newbery Medal for his 14th-century adventure tale, Crispin: The Cross of Lead. His books range from mysteries and adventure stories to historical novels and coming-of-age tales; and although there is often a strong moral core to his work, he leavens his message with appealing warmth and humor. Perhaps his philosophy is summed up best in this quote from his author profile on Scholastic's website: "I want my readers to feel, to think, sometimes to laugh. But most of all I want them to enjoy a good read."
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In a Q&A with his publisher, Avi named Robert Louis Stevenson as one of his greatest inspirations, noting that "he epitomizes a kind of storytelling that I dearly love and still read because it is true, it has validity, and beyond all, it is an adventure."
When he's not writing, Avi enjoys photography as one of his favorite hobbies.
Avi got his unique nickname from his twin sister, Emily..
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| Avi Home
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|In Our Other Stores|
Signed, First Editions by Avi|
|Emily Upham's Revenge, 1979|
|A Place Called Ugly, 1983|
|Sometimes I Think I Hear My Name, 1983|
|S.O.R. Losers, 1984|
|The Fighting Ground, 1984|
|Romeo & Juliet: Together (& Alive!) at Last, 1987|
|Something Upstairs, 1988|
|Wolf Rider: A Tale of Terror, 1988|
|Who Stole the Wizard of Oz?, 1990|
|Nothing but the Truth, 1991|
|The Man Who Was Poe, 1991|
|The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, 1991|
|Blue Heron, 1992|
|Devil's Race, 1992|
|Man from the Sky, 1992|
|Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?, 1992|
|Captain Grey, 1993|
|City of Light, City of Dark, 1993|
|No More Magic, 1993|
|Bright Shadow, 1994|
|Encounter at Easton, 1994|
|Night Journeys, 1994|
|Smuggler's Island, 1994|
|The Barn, 1994|
|The History of Helpless Harry, 1995|
|Tom, Babette, and Simon: Three Tales of Transformation, 1995|
|Beyond the Western Sea Book 1: The Escape from Home, 1996|
|Beyond the Western Sea Book 2: Lord Kirkle's Money, 1996|
|Finding Providence, 1997|
|Punch with Judy, 1997|
|What Do Fish Have to Do with Anything?, 1997|
|Perloo the Bold, 1998|
|Poppy and Rye, 1998|
|Abigail Takes the Wheel, 1999|
|Midnight Magic, 1999|
|Ereth's Birthday, 2000|
|Don't You Know There's a War On?, 2001|
|Prairie School, 2001|
|The Good Dog, 2001|
|The Secret School, 2001|
|Crispin: The Cross of Lead, 2002|
|The Christmas Rat, 2002|
|Things That Sometimes Happen, 2002|