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Juvenile Books Author of the Month
23 December 1937 -- ???

Avi Wortis, along with his twin sister Emily (Wortis) Ledier, was born on December 23, 1937 in New York City to Joseph and Helen (Zunser) Wortis. Avi's father was a psychiatrist, and his mother was a social worker. Besides his twin sister, who is a poet and critic, he also has an older brother named Henry, who is a scientist.

Avi's family had a tradition of storytelling and greatly promoted reading as a pastime. Two of his great grandfathers were writers, and on of his grandmothers was a playwright. His mother read to him and his twin sister nightly. he has fond memories of his childhood in Brooklyn, New York and of his grandparents entertaining him with stories. It was these stories that inspired his love of reading. "I can even remember telling my own tales of adventures to a slightly younger cousin when quite young." [5]

Even considering this interest in reading and storytelling, Avi first wanted to become an airplane designer and then, later, a biologist.

Avi remembers himself as being shy and not a child interested in sports. His interests lay more in reading and playing games of imagination. Avi always viewed himself as an outsider. He appreciated his solitude. He also remembers and early love of history, with particular interest in the American Revolutionary War.

Looking at his school performance, Avi was not what one would call the "perfect student." While he did well in science, he struggled with both writing and spelling. He wound up flunking out of the first high school he attended, called Stuyvesant High School, mostly because he could not write. In fact, in his junior year of high school, his parents were told that he greatly needed tutoring because he had never learned how to spell or write well. He later learned that he suffered from dysographia, a writing dysfunction that causes the student to reverse or misspell words. His parents found him a different school, a smaller one that emphasized reading and writing, and he also studied with a tutor named Ella Ratner.

"That summer, I met every day with a wonderful teacher, who not only taught me writing basics, but instilled in me the conviction that I wanted to be a writer myself," said Avi once looking back on the experience. [5]

After graduating from Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York, Avi attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he received a Bachelor's Degree in History in 1959. He stayed on at the university and received a Master's Degree in Drama in 1962.

Upon receiving his second degree, Avi moved back to New York and started a career as a playwright. Unfortunately, he did not have a great deal of success in this field. Avi's other job experiences from this time included being a sign printer, a carpenter, a theater coach, and a number of other jobs of which he was not incredible fond.

In 1962, Avi took a position at the New York Public Library Performing Arts Research center, where he was part of the staff serving the Theater Collection. Avi greatly enjoyed his work at the library. He liked it so much that he went on to get a second Master's degree was in the field of Library Science. He remained in his position at the library until 1970.

Avi married his first wife Joan Gabriner, who was a weaver, on November 1, 1963. They had two sons, Shaun, born in 1966, and Kevin, born in 1968. Both of his sons have gone on to work in the field of rock music. "....it was only when I had children of my own and had begun to invent stories for them that I thought of writing children's books. Once begun, I soon left other writing interests and concentrated on books for young people. Writing for kids has been the center of my life ever since." [5]

Avi and Joan divorced in 1982. Avi married his second wife in 1983. His present wife's name is Coppelia Kahn. She has a son named Gabriel from a previous marriage.

While he worked on launching his writing career, Avi continued to work as a librarian. Besides working for the New York Public Library, he also worked for a year at the Lambeth Public Library in London, England in 1968.

In 1970, Avi was able to combine his two careers when he took a position as a professor and humanities librarian at Trenton State College in New Jersey. He taught courses in research and children's literature. Avi gave up his librarian position in 1986 in order to concentrate on becoming a full-time writer.

Avi's first titles Things That Sometimes Happen, published in 1970, and Snail Tale, published in 1972, were written for very young readers. He has since written successfully for a broad range of ages from beginning readers to those in high school. His stories usually fall in the categories of historical fiction, fantasy, mystery, or realistic fiction.

Avi has a great respect for his readers. "Give [kids] a world they can understand and they will read you. Give them a world that expands, or better, defines their often unspoken, often hidden, perception and extraordinary sensibilities and they will embrace you." [7]

"I hold a strong belief that most young people are as complex as adults. Some, I dare say, are more complex ... What I always seek is a good, suspenseful story, rich in emotions, contradiction, irony -- a story that grabs, makes you want to race to the end. At the same time I'm working hard to make the characters and ideas stay with the readers long after the last page," said Avi once looking back on his readers and the way he writes. [7]

Avi is also a continuing book reviewer for Library Journal, a professional magazine for librarians.

When he is not writing, Avi likes to visit flea markets and used bookstores to help build up a collection of old and more recent children's books. He also has a big interest in photography, a hobby he shares with his parents.

For a time, Avi and his family lived in Providence, Rhode Island, but now he resides in Denver, Colorado.

Information for this biography was taken from:
1) "Avi", Educational Paperback Association; http://www.edupaperbacthk.org/authorbios/avi.html.
2) "Avi", IPL Youth Division: Ask the Author, http://www.ipl.org/youth/AskAuthor/Avi.html.
3) Avi's Homepage; http://www.avi-writer.com.
4) Tracy Chevalier (ed.). Twentieth Century Children Writers; St. James Press: New York, 1989.
5) Anne Commire (ed.). Something About the Author, #14; Gale Research Company: Detroit, Mich., 1978.
6) Hall, Lauren. Learning About Avi; http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/special/kay/avi.html.
7) Harris, Laurie Lanzen. Biography Today, 19931; Omnigraphics, Inc: New York, 1993.
8) Markham, Lois. Avi; The Learning Works: Santa Barbara, Calif., 1996.
9) "Meet Avi", Tab Teen Book Club; http://teacher.scholastic.com/authorsandbooks/authors/avi/bio.htm.

E-AVI The Bird, The Frog, and the Light: A Fable (1994) -- A frog learns the truth about his self-importance when he meets a bird whose simple song brings the sun's light to the world.

J-AVI The Barn (1994) -- In an effort to fulfill their dying father's last request, nine-year-old Ben and his brother and sister construct a barn on their land in Oklahoma Territory.

J-P-AVI Blue Heron (1992) -- While spending the month of August on the Massachusetts shore with her father, her stepmother, and their new baby, Maggie finds beauty in and draws strength from the blue heron even as the family around her unravels.

J-AVI Bright Shadow (1985) -- Having used four of the five wishes she is granted to make on behalf of the hapless citizens of her country, Morwenna flees the kingdom to decide what to do with her last wish.

J-P-AVI Escape From Home (1996) -- Driven from the Irish impoverished village, fifteen-year-old Maura and her younger brother meet their landlord's runaway son in Liverpool while all three await a ship bound for America.

J-AVI/J-P-AVI The Fighting Ground (1984) -- Thirteen-year-old Jonathan goes off to fight in the Revolutionary War and discovers the real war is being fought within himself.

J-AVI Man From the Sky (1980) -- In an almost foolproof scheme, a man parachutes from an airplane with a large amount of money only to be seen by a boy who has a reputation for seeing things in the clouds.

J-AVI No More Magic (1975) -- While searching for his bicycle that disappeared on Halloween, a young boy and his two friends become involved in a magical adventure.

J-AVI/J-P-AVI Nothing But the Truth: A Documentary Novel (1991) -- A ninth-grader's suspension for singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" during homeroom becomes a national news story.

J-AVI Perloo the Bold (1998) Perloo, a peaceful scholar who has been chosen to succeed Jolaine as leader of the furry underground people called the Montmers, finds himself in danger when Jolaine dies and her evil son takes control of the burrow.

J-P-AVI A Place Called Ugly (1981) -- At the end of the summer, fourteen-year-old Owen refuses to leave the beach house which has been his family's summer home for 10 years and which is scheduled for demolition.

J-AVI/J-P-AVI Poppy (1995) -- Poppy the deer mouse urges her family to move to a corn field big enough to feed them all forever, but Mr. Ocax, a terrifying owl, has other ideas.

J-AVI Poppy and Rye (1998) -- When their home next to a brook is destroyed by beavers, a large family of golden mice is aided by Poppy the deer mouse and her grumpy porcupine friend, who in the process forges a friendship with the son he had abandoned.

J-AVI Punch With Judy (1993) -- An outcast eight-year-old boy orphaned by the Civil War is taken in by the owner of a traveling medicine show and, despite the doubts of others, he confirms the man's faith in him.

J-P-AVI Smuggler's Island (1994) --Living on a poor island in 1932, a young boy determines, despite his family's bitter opposition to identify and somehow bring to justice the liquor smugglers who have been terrorizing the island.

RI-J-AVI Something Upstairs: A Tale of Ghosts (1997) -- When he moves from Los Angeles to Providence, RI, Kenny discovers that his new house is haunted by the spirit of a black slave boy who asks Kenny to return with him to the early nineteenth century and prevent his murder by slave traders.

J-AVI Sometimes I Think I Hear My Name (1982) -- Thirteen-year-old Conrad, who lives with his aunt and uncle in St. Louis, decides to pay a surprise visit to his divorced parents in New York and comes face-to-face with bitter reality.

J-AVI The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1990) -- As the lone "young lady" on a trans-Atlantic voyage in 1832, Charlotte learns that the captain is murderous and the crew rebellious.

J-P-AVI What Do Fish Have to Do With Anything And Other Stories (1997) -- This collection of seven stories includes a tale of how a sixth-grader's melancholy in the wake of his father's departure breaks when a street person offers a cure for unhappiness.

J-P-AVI Who Stole the Wizard of Oz? (1981) -- Becky and her brother use some ingenious clues to identify the person who stole five children's books from the town's library.

J-AVI/J-P-AVI Windcatcher (1991) -- While learning to sail during a visit to his grandmother's house on the Connecticut shore, eleven-year-old Tony becomes excited about the rumors of sunken treasure in the area and starts following a couple who seem to be making a mysterious search for something.

J-P-AVI Wolf Rider: A Tale of Terror (1986) -- After receiving an apparent crank call from a man claiming to have committed murder, fifteen-year-old Andy finds his close relationship with his father crumbling as he struggles to make everyone believe him.

J-92-WIlliams Finding Providence: The Story of Roger Williams (1997) -- After being forced to leave Massachusetts Bay Colony, Roger Williams travels south and, with the help of the Narragansett Indians, founds Providence, Rhode Island.

"Avi", Educational Paperback Association (http://www.edupaperbacthk.org/authorbios/avi.html) -- A brief biography written in Avi's own words is provided at this site as well as a list of some of his works and a list of other resources that can be used to learn more about him.

"Avi", IPL Youth Division: Ask the Author; (http://www.ipl.org/youth/AskAuthor/Avi.html) -- As part of its Ask the Author program, the Internet Public Library has created this site on Avi, which includes a brief discussion about his works and has an interview with him.

Avi's Homepage (http://www.avi-writer.com) -- This site is maintained by the author. It provides information and activities about him and his books.

Hall, Lauren. Learning About Avi (http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/special/kay/avi.html) -- This report was written by an eighth grade student from Cross River, New York. The report provides a brief biography as well as some critical analysis and a discussion of some of his books.

"Meet Avi", Teen Tab (http://teacher.scholastic.com/authorsandbooks/authors/avi/bio.htm) -- This teen area organized by Scholastic Books provides a brief biography of one of the most popular authors for young teens.

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