The young raccoon is going places even if it's in the wrong direction. When Amanda decides she wants to be a professional thief, it's up to her brother, Phillip, to keep her from a life of crime. To do so, he's going to need the help of every animal in town and a runaway train, too!
About the Author
Avi is the award-winning author of more than seventy-five books for young readers, ranging from animal fantasy to gripping historical fiction, picture books to young adult novels. Crispin: The Cross of Lead won the Newbery Medal, and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Nothing But the Truth were awarded Newbery Honors. He is also the author of the popular Poppy series. Avi lives outside Denver, Colorado. You can visit him online at www.avi-writer.com.
David Wisniewski passed away in his sleep, from an unknown illness, on September 11, 2002. Born in 1953, he had all-too-brief a life and leaves behind his lovely wife, Donna, and their two children, Ariana and Alexander.
Just this week David had seen the finished books for Halloweenies, and he was so happy with how it turned out.
He will, of course, be remembered as the 1997 Caldecott Medalist for his 6th book, The Golem. But perhaps even more, he'll be known for his off-beat postmodern humor, seen in Tough Cookie, The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups, and Halloweenies. Everyone who knew him loved his wit and his vibrancy; he was also quite an inspirational speaker. We will miss him.
In His Own Words:
My mom taught me to draw in first grade. Nothing fancy. Just how to put circles and ovals together for form "bubble men." It was a wonderful introduction to drawing and a terrific gateway to action and proportion. But third grade, I was one of the class artists.
That's when I started reading comic books, especialy the Marvel superheroes created by Stan Lee. My sketchpads became full of The Fantastic Four, Spider-man, The Mighty Thor, and X-Men. Comic books were also my first introduction to dynamic storytelling. Nothing's more dramatic than colossal struggles between good and evil with entire galaxies at stake!
This enthusiasm led directly to Classic Comics, simplified versions of fantasy masterpieces like Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. It wasn't long before I became an avid reader, willing to tackle the work of Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and A.E. van Vogt.
During high school I became interested in the performing arts as well as the visual When I couldn't afford more than one semester of college, I signed up for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. After training for two months, I clowned with Ringling for two seasons (1973-74), then performed with the country's largest tent show, Circus Vargas, in 1975.
After the circus, I was hired by my future wife, Donna, to perform with a puppet theatre. We married in 1976 and started our own company, Clarion Shadow Theatre, in 1980. Shadow puppetry was our specialty, wherein flat, jointed figures move against a screen illuminated with rear-projected scenery. Although I didn't know it at the time, shadow puppetry trained me to do picture books. Cutting out shadow puppets and projected scenery taught me how to use an X-Acto knife. The shadow screen was the same shape as an open book. Adapting legends and folktales into scripts taught me how to write.
When our chidren - Ariana and Alexander - were born, touring became impossible, so I adapted my cutting skills to illustration. After four years of freelancing for newspapers and magazines, I created my first picture book. The Warrior and the Wise Man (1989) looks very much like a shadow puppet play.
My cut-paper style matured with ensuing books. I learned to construct more detailed people and scenery, plus how to layer the artwork, creating the shadows that give depth to the pages. Happily, my books have been well received, culminating in the 1997 Caldecott Medal for Golem.
After six epic adventures, I wanted to try something comedic that would draw on my circus and puppet theatre experience. The Secret Knowledge of Grown-ups was the result, a silly conspiracy spoof about the real reasons why parents tell kids to do things.
Date of Birth:December 23, 1937
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Education:University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964
Read an Excerpt
Philip and Amanda
"But I don't want to be a thief," said Philip, a plump and very anxious young raccoon. He was staring at a two-story brick building across Grove Street, through a light veil of powdery snow. It was a little past three o'clock in the morning in Boulder, Colorado.
Amanda, Philip's twin sister, rolled her eyes. "You're such a dork!" she said. Amanda was smaller and thinner than Philip with a narrow, sharp-nosed, white-whiskered face. The black band across her eyes gave her the appearance of a thief. "Live a little!" she said. "It's no big deal to go inside a house."
"I'm not so sure," Philip replied. His round ears twitched as he rubbed his front paws together with worry.
Annoyed by her brother's reluctance, Amanda said, "Philip, I watched the people move out two days ago. And I didn't see anyone move in." She flicked snow from her nose.
Philip studied his twin with troubled eyes. "But you weren't watching all the time, were you?"
"Now you're being stupid!" Amanda said with exasperation. "Does it look like anyone is in there?"
"But if no one's there," Philip suggested, "what's the point of going in? There won't be any food."
"People always leave stuff behind. It'll be awesome. Anyway, I'm bored. And you are hungry, aren't you?"
Philip sighed. His sister was right. He was hungry, and maybe there would be food. And the house appeared deserted. Its windows were dark. No curtains were in sight. There was not so much as a curl of smoke coming from the chimney on the roof.
What's more, the house did look as if getting inside would be easy. Next to the porch was apine tree which reached the porch roof and beyond. Overlooking the porch roof was a partially open window. The house was almost inviting them to enter!
Even so, Philip felt uneasy about going in. How he wished he was snug and safe at home.
"Ma said we shouldn't go into people's houses," he reminded his sister.
"Hey, dude, how old is Ma?"
"Ten, I think."
"Exactly. Like, too old to know anything," Amanda insisted. "Know what I'm saying? Besides, eating food that's been left behind is not stealing.""But what if there isn't any food?" Philip asked.
"No food, no me, no problem."
As Philip stared at the building he thought how vague Amanda was about right and wrong. He knew it was wrong to go into people's houses. Still, wasn't their mother always saying, "Philip, keep your eye on Amanda! She loves excitement too much." He had to go with her.
"Philip," Amanda said sarcastically, "be a wuss if you want. I'm going in." So saying, she scampered across Grove Street, leaving a double row of five-toed paw prints in the new snow.
Philip watched her with a heavy heart. He just knew she was going to get into trouble.
"Are you coming?" Amanda called from the far side.
Philip looked up and down the street. Seeing no cars, he waddled slowly and reluctantly toward the house.
Amanda, already on the porch, stood on her hind legs and peeked into the house through a large window. The moonlight illuminated a long room. Other than a few scattered boxes and a broom against a wall, it appeared completely empty.
"See," Amanda cooed. "Like, it's so sweet. No one's there."
Philip looked for himself. The house certainly did seem abandoned. "Amanda, isn't it wrong to-" He stopped speaking. Amanda was halfway up the tree. With an inward groan, Philip followed.
Once on the porch roof, Amanda climbed to the sill of the open window. A block of wood held it open.
Not even bothering to see if Philip was following, she crept through the gap into the house.
Philip, now on the porch roof, hesitated. What was he to do? Should he do something wrong to keep Amanda from doing wrong? Once again he remembered his mother saying that she expected him to keep an eye on Amanda. With that, Philip followed his sister inside. His heart was pounding.Fatter than Amanda, he found it a tight squeeze. Still, he managed to get through and drop onto a rugcovered floor, just in time to hear Amanda say, "Oh, bummer! Someone is here."
[NEXT WEEK: TRAPPED!]