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Avi -- Author Study
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avi.jpg
Picture from avi-writer.com

Biographical Information

  • Avi has a twin sister
  • Avi is not his given name, it is the name given to him by his sister - and it stuck!
  • He uses the name Avi on his books because his family discouraged him from becoming a writer so he decided not to put their name on his books.
  • He was born on December 23, 1937 in New York City
  • When he first started writing professionally, Avi was a playwright
  • Avi's youngest son has still never read his Newberry Award winning book Crispin.
  • Avi was not a good student and was labeled a "daydreamer" by his teachers.
  • He started writing books for kids when he had children of his own.
  • Avi's hobby is photography.
  • He decided he wanted to become a writer when he was a senior in high school.
  • Avi was a children's librarian before becoming an author.
  • His personal website is located at: www.avi-writer.com
  • Additional information about Avi can be found at: www.ipl.org/div/kidspace/askauthor/Avi.html

Avi Bibliography

Following is a complete bibliography of the works of Avi from 1990 to present.

 

Avi. 1999. Abigail Takes the Wheel. Illustrated by Don Bolognese. New York: Harper Collins.

 

Avi. 1994. The Barn. New York: Orchard Books

 

Avi. 1994. The Bird, the Frog, and the Light: a Fable. Illustrated by Matthew Henry. New York: Orchard Books.

 

Avi. 1992. Blue Heron. New York: Bradbury Press.

 

Avi. 1994. Bright Shadow. New York: Aladdin Books.

 

Avi. 2000. The Christmas Rat. New York: Simon & Schuster.

 

Avi. 1993. City of Light / City of Dark. Illustrated by Brian Floca. New York: Orchard Books.

 

Avi. 2002. Crispin: The Cross of Lead. New York: Hyperion Books For Children.

 

Avi. 2001. Don’t You Know There’s A War On?. New York: Harper Collins.

 

Avi. 1992. Emily Upham’s Revenge: A Massachusetts Adventure. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. New York: Morrow Junior Books.

 

Avi. 1994. Encounter at Easton. New York: Beech Tree Books.

 

Avi. 2004. The End of the Beginning: Being the Adventures of a Small Snail (and an Even Smaller Ant). Illustrated by Tricia Tusa. Orlando, Fla: Harcourt.

 

Avi. 2000. Ereth’s Birthday. Illustrated by Brian Floca. New York: Harper Collins.

 

Avi. 1996. The Escape From Home. New York: Orchard Books.

 

Avi. 1997. Finding Providence: the Story of Roger Williams. Illustrated by James Watling. New York: Harper Collins.

 

Avi. 2001. The Good Dog. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

 

Avi. 1995. The History of Helpless Harry: to Which is Addes a Variety of Amusing and Entertaining Adventures. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. New York: Beech Tree Books.

 

Avi. 1996. Lord Kirkle’s Money. New York: Orchard Books.

 

Avi.  2003. The Mayor of Central Park. Illustrated by Brian Floca. New York: Harper Collins.

 

Avi. 1999. Midnight Magic. New York: Scholastic Press.

 

Avi. 1994. Night Journeys. New York: Beech Tree Books.

 

Avi. 2003. Nothing But the Truth: A Documentary Novel. New York: Orchard Books.

 

Avi. 1998. Perloo the Bold. New York: Scholastic Press.

 

Avi. 1998. Poppy and Rye. Illustrated by Brian Floca. New York: Avon Books.

 

Avi. 1995. Poppy. Illustrated by Brian Floca. New York: Orchard Books.

 

Avi. 2001. Prairie School. Illustrated by Bill Farnsworth. New York: Harper Collins.

 

Avi. 1993. Punch with Judy. Illustrated by Emily Lisker. New York: Bradbury Press.

 

Avi. 1999. Ragweed. Illustrated by Brian Floca. New York: Avon Books.

 

Avi. 2001. The Secret School. San Diego: Harcourt.

 

Avi. 2003. Silent Movie. Illustrated by C.B. Mordan. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

 

Avi. 2002. Things That Sometimes Happen. Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

 

Avi. 1995. Tom, Babette & Simon: Three Tales of Transformation. Illustrated by Alexi Natchev. New York: Macmillan Books for Young Readers.

 

Avi. 2003. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. Illustrated by Ruth E. Murray. New York: Orchard Books.

 

Avi. 1997. What Do Fish Have to Do With Anything?: and Other Stories. Illustrated by Tracy Mitchell. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press.

 

Avi. 1992. Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?. New York: Orchard Books.

 

Avi. 1991. Windcatcher. New York: Maxwell Macmillan International Pub.

 

Avi. 1993. Wolf Rider: a Tale of Terror. New York: Collier Books.

 

Bio-critical Analysis

 

The two books that were written by Avi that I am basing this analysis on are: Who Was That Masked Man Anyway? and The Christmas Rat.  Both of these books are written for an audience of fourth through seventh grade reading levels.

 

Who Was That Masked Man Anyway? is set in New York during World War II.  In this humorous story, Franklin D. Wattleson, a radio program enthusiast creates his own adventures with his trusty (if not quite as enthusiastic) sidekick Mario.  Franklin (a.k.a. “Chet Barker, master spy”) manages to get himself into more trouble than one would think is possible as his overactive imagination causes him to carry out his plots of getting rid of the “evil scientist”(medical student) that is renting his brother’s room upstairs and marrying off his brother to his sixth-grade teacher.  Wackiness ensues as Franklin performs his capers with constant self-narration as any self-respecting radio program would.  Complete with cereal ads and all.

 

This book is appealing because of its fast pace and wonderful imagination.  It is easy to get caught up into the adventures that Franklin and Mario are having while having the birds eye view of what is really taking place makes the story even more enjoyable.  Children are not the only ones who will enjoy this story, Publisher’s Weekly points out in its review of this book that, “Nostalgia buffs in particular will be drawn to this book, which contains segments of old-time radio serials and commercials. Besides providing much hilarity, this ingeniously structured montage of broadcasts, fantasies and conversations exposes many ironies of heroism and war.”  Although not a major part of the story, when Franklin’s older brother Tom finally shares with him what the war was really like, the moment holds a certain weight that is felt during the reading. 

 

The Christmas Rat is also set in New York City and is the story of Eric, who having just gotten out of school for Christmas vacation finds himself with nothing to do.  All of his friends are either out of town or sick, and the world outside is frozen solid, Eric quickly tires of watching T.V. and playing computer games.  When he is enlisted in a “war on vermin” by the mysterious exterminator “Anje” the real excitement begins.  Eric becomes uncomfortable with the idea of killing a living creature, “It is Christmas time after all”.  However, Anje takes his desertion very seriously.  It becomes a battle to the finish, with Christmas being the deadline to see if the rat that Eric found will live or die.  This story provides an interesting if not completely clear commentary of the value of life.  Carolyn Phelan of Booklist touches on the ambiguity of the theme in this book in her review.  She says; “Readers can develop their own theories about Anje, but most will remain confused about whether he is indeed the Angel Gabriel (an appended note briefly discusses Gabriel's presence in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions), or a fantastic but unholy apparition, or a figment of Eric's imagination. Each answer leaves unexplained questions.”  While this story may not answer any existential questions, it is a satisfying suspenseful story.

 

Based on these two examples of Avi’s work it is safe to say that he is a very versatile writer who does not conform to any particular style of writing.  Who Was That Masked Man Anyway? is written in almost complete dialogue and at a very quick pace.  On the other hand, The Christmas Rat is almost completely narrated by the main character.  If not for the name on the front of the book then one would never guess that these two books were written by the same author. 

 

While these books are very different, they do share one thing other than the author in common, a more serious message that is briefly touched on at the end and in both cases, it is left up to the reader to decide what they think about it.  In Who Was That Masked Man Anyway? the issue is war and how it is not as glamorous as it is portrayed by movies and radio.  In The Christmas Rat, the value of life is touched on as well as planting the thought of what is and is not acceptable to do in the name of boredom.  While these are not consistent themes throughout the books, they do leave an impression on the reader because of the way they are presented.   

 

Avi shows his versatility for writing through the many different styles and approaches that he has used.  His work can be categorized using the following labels; Early Reader, Young Adult, Biocritical Study, Biography, Short Stories, Historical, Comedy, Mystery, Fantasy, Adventure, Ghost Stories, Animal Tales and Picture Books.  Very few contemporary authors can claim such a varied body of work, Avi, however has accomplished this feat and continues to produce critically acclaimed books for children and young adults.    

 

Avi’s life has most certainly influenced his work and that is reflected in his writing.  For instance, setting, during an open question forum that I attended recently for this author, he stated that he tends to write books set in places he is personally familiar with.  For example, the Forrest in the Poppy series (although not implicitly named) is a forest in Colorado where Avi currently resides.  New York is also a prominent setting for his books which shows the influence of growing up in Brooklyn. 

 

Growing up in the World War II era also has had an impact on Avi’s work.  In the books Don’t You Know There’s A War On? and Who Was That Masked Man Anyway?, both take place during this period in our history which is surely a result of the impact that this time had on him personally.  The radio also must have been a large influence in Avi’s life since it plays such a central role in Who Was That Masked Man Anyway?.

 

Overall critics seem to like Avi’s work.  Carol Hurst describes him as “an amazingly prolific and versatile writer.”  The one consistent criticism I have come across is that there is not always a neat ending.  The story is not always wrapped up in a way in which all of the questions that are raised get answered.  Perhaps this is his way of getting the reader to make decisions about the characters and the story themselves.  Regardless of this criticism, Avi remains a celebrated contemporary author for children’s literature.  He has received over 90 awards for his books including the Newberry Medal for Crispin and Newberry Honor Book Award for The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.

 

Reference List:

 

Avi personal website: www.avi-writer.com

The Read-In Files: www.readin.org/authors/archives/2000/avi.pdf

Kidspace at the Internet Public Library: www.ipl.org/div/kidspace/askauthor/Avi.html

Carol Hurst’s Children’s Literature Site: www.carolhurst.com/authors/avi.html

Amazon.com (book reviews)

 

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