Avi Wortis

Avi is one of the best authors for the 3rd-8th grade range of books. He has written many, many books on diverse topics with varying styles-for kindergarten through young adult ages. My personal favorites are the historical fiction, but others are equally as good. Poppy, Windcatcher, Nothing But the Truth, and Who Stole the Wizard of Oz? are also exceptional books.

Beginning Readers
Abigail Takes the Wheel
Prairie School

Beyond the Western Sea: Volume I & II
Don't You Know There's a War On?
Encounter at Easton
Sequel to Night Journeys
Night Journeys
Nothing But the Truth
Newbery Honor 1992
Poppy & Sequels
The Secret School
Shadrach's Crossing
Sometimes I Think I Hear My Name
The Traitor's Gate
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Newbery Honor 1991
Who Stole the Wizard of Oz?
Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?
Wolf Rider

Silent Movie picture book

Second Sight short stories
What Do Fish Have To Do With Anything? And Other Stories short stories

Books Not Reviewed Yet
The Barn
The Bird, the Frog, and the Light
Blue Heron
Bright Shadow
Captain Grey
City of Light, City of Dark
Comic book novel
The Christmas Rat
Crispin: The Cross of Lead
Newbery Award 2003
Crispin: At the Edge of the World Sequel
Devil's Race
Emily Upham's Revenge
The End of the Beginning
Finding Providence
biograhy of Roger Williams
The Fighting Ground
The Good Dog
The History of Helpless Harry
Man From the Sky
The Man Who Was Poe
The Mayor of Central Park
Midnight Magic
Never Mind
No More Magic
Perloo the Bold
A Place Called Ugly
Punch With Judy
Romeo and Juliet-Together (and alive!) At Last
Something Upstairs
S.O.R. Losers
Smuggler's Island
Snail Tale
Strange Happenings
Things That Sometime Happen
Tom, Babette & Simon

Abigail Takes the Wheel. il Don Bolognese.
HarperCollins Publishers: NY, 1999.

There is a collision in New York Harbor! Abigail's father uses his freight boat to help. He must steer the ship, so Abigail takes the wheel of their boat to tow the ship to a pier. More excitement follows as Abigail guides the ship through the busy harbor with the help of her brother.
related-nineteenth century, shipping, New York Harbor
RL=3rd-4th       Level 3 beginning reader

Beyond the Western Sea: The Escape From Home
Orchard Books: NY, 1996.

Written as a Victorian novel, there are many twists and turns and dramatic situations. An Irish brother and sister receive tickets to America as they are about to be put out of their homes by an English landlord. The son of a wealthy English lord also heads for America after his father allows his brother to beat him. It is a story of coincidences and near misses as the two boys meet and help each other through their journeys. Many others become involved in their situations, and it is difficult for them to know who is helping and who is harming them.

Beyond the Western Sea: Lord Kirkle's Money
Orchard Books: NY, 1996.

Here is the continuation of the story of Patrick and Maura recently from Ireland and Lord Kirkle's son Laurence who has run away from London. The novel starts with the trip to America in steerage and Laurence as a stowaway. After landing in Boston, the major characters go separate ways, but all have reasons to make their way to Lowell, MA and the labor problems brewing there. The stolen money changes hands a few times. Again there are many twists with much adventure and anticipation of the resolution.
related-emigration and immigration, runaways, nineteenth century, adventure, labor, Lowell-Mass.

Don't You Know There Is a War On?
HarperCollins Publishers: NY, 2001.

Howie, Denny, and most of their class have fathers or other relatives serving overseas during World War II. Their teacher, Miss Gossim, helps them to cope with the daily reminders of the war. Howie overhears the principal telling the superintendent of schools that Miss Gossim should be fired. He is determined to find out why and help her to continue teaching their class.

This is a moving example of WWII from the perspective of a child confronted everyday by headlines of war, security blackouts, and war shortages. He dreams nightly of his father dying. His mother is exhausted from working long hours and her own anxiety. His teacher is the one thing making his life bearable.
related-World War II (US), teacher-student relationships, schools, sacrifice, political lessons

Encounter at Easton
William Morrow and Company, Inc.: NY. Originally published by Pantheon Books/Random House: NY, 1980.

This sequel to Night Journeys is told as court testimony from 4 points-of-view. Robert Linnly, the fugitive boy, is the focus. The girl with whom he is escaping is desperately ill, so he must plan how to cross the Lehigh River, get help for her, and provide food for them. John Tolivar, the master of the runaways, describes his hiring of Nathaniel Hill to pursue the girl. Mr. Hill is acting as a bounty hunter and describes his pursuit of Elizabeth Mawes and his dealings with the other characters. George Clagget is the constable in Easton whom Mr. Hill employs to help in apprehending Elizabeth. All 3 men claim their innocence and lawfulness in the calamitous circumstances that unfold. The story is emotionally moving and significant in that it shows the parallels between indentured servitude and slavery. related-fugitive laws, eighteenth century, Pennsylvania, indentured servants RL=6th-YA

Night Journeys
Pantheon Books/Random House, Inc.: NY, 1979.

Two young indentured servants have escaped from their master in New Jersey in the 1700s. They have been told they would be safe and be able to find work if they can reach Easton, PA. Peter York's foster father is the Justice of the Peace in a small township just over the Delaware River border, but he is also a Quaker. Thinking of the reward money, Peter offers to help search for the fugitives. What he doesn't know is that they are children. Both Peter and his foster father wrestle with their consciences over the events that arise.

The first time I read this book I was overwhelmed. It has been a few years, so I wasn't sure if I would still be as moved. Again, I was amazed by the depth of emotion evoked by Peter York's struggles. There are about 10 to 12 of Avi's books that I think are great. This is near the very top. related-indentured servants, Society of Friends, eighteenth century, Pennsylvania RL=6th-YA

Nothing But the Truth
Orchard Books: NY, 1991.
Newbery Honor 1992

Philip is sent to the vice-principal's office for behaving disrepectfully while the national anthem is played. The situation quickly spins out of control as students, teachers, parents, school officials and the media become involved in the matter.

This is Avi at his best as he highlights an issue that does tend to get totally out of control. The facts tend to get lost in the fuss, and people's ability to reason is also lost as emotions become inflamed. Both sides become increasingly defensive, and the more attention is given, the more the story changes. RL=7th-YA

Poppy il Brian Floca.
Orchard Books: NY, 1995.

Poppy's boyfriend is eaten by the owl who says he is the protector/ruler of the forest. She is forced to confront him with her father to get permission to move the family due to lack of food. It is the scariest thing she has ever done. Scarier still is her confrontation with the frightful porcupine who turns out to be her true protection.

Poppy is courageous and smart enough to solve her seemingly insurmountable problems. There is much adventure, suspense, and comic relief in this short novel which is one of the best for this reading level. The sequels are equally as good. RL=3rd-5th

Poppy and Rye il Brian Floca.
Avon Camelot/Avon Books, Inc: NY, 1998.

Poppy convinces Ereth to travel with her to tell Ragweed's family of his death. On the way she meets Rye, Ragweed's brother. She is drawn into their family's predicament-beavers have flooded their home and are planning more extensive flooding of the area. Meanwhile Ereth is struggling with his feelings (friendship, love) for Poppy. Rye wrestles with his own problem of proving himself as dependable and worthy as Ragweed.

Ragweed 1999 (not reviewed)
Ereth's Birthday 2000 (not reviewed)
Poppy's Return 2005 (not reviewed)

Prairie School. il Bill Farnsworth.
HarperCollins Publishers: NY, 2001.

Noah loves life on his family's pioneer farm. His Aunt Dora travels west to teach him how to read, but he finds every possible excuse to avoid lessons-running off and doing one chore after another. Realizing she won't be able to keep him cooped up, Aunt Dora finds a way to capture his attention out on the prairie.
related-nineteenth century, pioneers, reading, physically handicapped, teaching
RL=2nd-3rd       Level 3 beginning reader

Second Sight
Philomel Books/Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers: NY, 1999.

Eight short stories for a new millenium by notable authors. There is a wide variety of stories with fantasy, humor, and realism. Authors include Avi, Natalie Babbitt, Madeleine L'Engle, Richard Peck, Janet Taylor Lisle, Rita Williams-Garcia, Nancy Springer, and Michael Cadnum.

The Secret School
Harcourt, Inc: NY, 2001.

The teacher of Elk Valley just received news of her mother's illness, so she must leave the school. Mr. Jordan, the head of the school board, refuses to keep the school open for the last month and a half of the term. Ida and Tom must pass exit exams to move on to high school, so Tom suggests they continue classes with Ida as the teacher. She agrees because it seems to be the only way, and she wants to teach anyway. It is decided that they must meet without Mr. Jordan knowing in order to continue. What would it be like for an eighth grader to teach 7 other students? Can she do this, keep up with farm chores, and study to pass her own exams? This is an engaging book with funny and heartwarming moments. Especially pleasing for those who enjoy learning or have a bit of the teacher inside themselves.
related-one room schoolhouse, teachers, coming of age, early twentieth century, rural town life, school, achievement

Shadrach's Crossing
Pantheon Books/Random House, Inc: 1983.

Smugglers take over Lucker's Island as the town is struggling through the Depression. At first the residents are glad for the money they bring, but as time goes by they are given less money, and their fear of the smugglers increases. Everyone is afraid to go against them-except Shadrach. Because of the humiliation and fear of his parents he decides to collect evidence for a man he believes is a government employee. He may have gone too far and endangered his family as well as himself. A captivating and thrilling adventure as Shad follows his convictions and stands up against the criminals who have taken over his home. related-smuggling, islands, Coast Guard, Great Depression 1930s, courage, spying RL=6th-8th

Silent Movie il C. B. Mordan.
An Anne Schwartz Book/Atheneum Books for Young Readers: NY, 2003.

The black and white pictures definitely set the melodramatic mood of the silent films. The faces and some of the gestures also have been exaggerated for effect. The story is also the type of story that would have been used for a silent movie. Two non-English-speaking immigrants (mother and son) are lost in New York City. They expect to meet Papa at the docks after immigrating but cannot find him. The story has been presented very well.

Because of the content, I am not sure what is an appropriate reading level. The text is simple and can be read by first graders, but it may take several readings for young readers to appreciate it. Our video-saturated culture is so different from what it was 100 years ago. I would suggest read aloud to young readers and possibly use for a Social Studies or Art Lesson for 5th-6th.
RL=read aloud

Sometimes I Think I Hear My Name
Avon Books: NY, 1982.

Conrad has been living with his aunt and uncle in St. Louis since his parents divorced years ago. He had been visiting them in New York City on his vacations-except for the past year something else always came up. So for spring vacation, Conrad has his heart set on going to visit his parents when his aunt and uncle announce they are sending him to England instead. He tries to convince them he doesn't want to go, but it is no good. However, when he goes to pick up his plane ticket he stumbles upon a plan that may work with the help of a girl who is returning home to New York City for spring break.

This story is strange and sad to me. The boy is caught between his love and trust of his aunt and uncle and his desire to be with his parents who are not able to care for him. His mother works constantly to just get by and his father seems totally irresponsible. Also compared to his situation is a family that is wealthy, but in their unhappiness the parents have separated themselves from their children and pretend otherwise.
related-divorce, foster care/adoption, trust, identity, honesty, stability

The Traitor's Gate by Avi.
A Richard Jackson Book/Atheneum Books for Young Readers: NY, 2007.

John Huffam's father swears he doesn't owe any one person the amount of money for which he is sent to debtor's prison in 1849 London. While trying to solve the problem of getting his father released, John learns that just about everyone he encounters is lying-his father, the family's housemaid, the bailiff, his ex-school teacher, his sister's suitor, the inspector treating his father as a traitor, the inspector who isn't that confronts him with a warning, even Sary, his new friend, who is helping him make sense of the confusing mystery. All he knows for sure is that there is a spy after a secret that his father holds, and he is determined to discover who it is.

Very much in the style of Dickens, the story has many elements that Dickens used-scenes of poverty, sneaks from the lower class, wrongful accusation, trial of the innocent, many and varied colorful characters, wealthy benefactor, and emphasis on detail and description. Because of the detail and twisting of the plot, it takes some time to become involved in the story. Once sufficiently into the story, the mystery is captivating. It isn't my favorite Avi book, but I would recommend it for both historical and mystery.

related-19th century England, imprisonment for debts, spies, Scotland Yard, intrigue, poverty (1800s), mystery and detective stories

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Orchard Books/Franklin Watts, Inc: NY, 1990.
Newbery Honor 1991

Upon learning which ship Charlotte Doyle is sailing on to America, the porter refuses to deliver her trunk to the ship. Another laborer is quickly hired to deliver the trunk, but he also runs away when told which ship. Despite this obvious warning, the man entrusted by her father to see her safely onto the ship demands that she sail on it. Her father has left no alternate plan or funds. They also find that the 2 families with whom she planned to travel will not be sailing with her. This leaves Charlotte the sole passenger aboard the ship. Not long after departure she is given a dagger by the cook to protect herself. The voyage becomes an ordeal that changes her perceptions drastically. The fantastic events seem extraordinarily real in this captivating novel. RL=5th-8th

What Do Fish Have To Do With Anything? And Other Stories
Candlewick Press: Cambridge, MA, 1997.

A stimulating collection of short stories (very short) about psychological topics. Subjects include depression and homelessness, good vs. bad, a missing brother, classroom atmosphere, reaction to death, suicide, and divorce. The stories are all well-done although shorter than I usually like.

Who Stole the Wizard of Oz?
Bullseye Books/Random House, Inc: NY, 1981.

Becky has been accused of stealing The Wizard of Oz from a library book sale. Offended by the suggestion, she and her twin want to know why anyone would steal a book if the price is only 5 cents. They start to investigate themselves. As they uncover clues, they are led on an unusual treasure hunt.
related-mystery, robbery, children's books, classics, treasure hunt, inheritance, libraries, high interest

Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?
A Richard Jackson Book/Orchard Books: NY, 1992.

This novel certainly has a unique style-jumping back and forth from 1940s radio shows and Frankie's life which is as much of a radio show as he can make it. He has a friend that he drags through his adventures as a sidekick. Frankie has created his own world and cannot be swayed from it. This creativity tends to be disruptive and gets him into trouble continually.

Frankie's imagination makes this an enjoyable book for many young readers. There are undercurrents of more serious issues although Frankie's attitude lightens the overall feeling.
related-WWII (US), heroes, radio, war injuries, imagination, teacher-student relationships

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: NY, 1991.

Tony is learning to sail as he stays with his grandmother on the Connecticut coast. He hears rumors of sunken treasure nearby and watches and follows a couple who appear to be searching for it. He and his grandmother do some sleuthing, and Tony is convinced the treasure is real. As Tony ventures out of safe waters, it quickly becomes clear he is beyond his level of safety.

This is a riveting story for young readers with the mystery of the treasure and of the town's founder, and also, the adventure of sailing and survival. It is also exciting because it demonstrates the possibility of achieving something of the adult world; for children that is momentous. RL=3rd-6th

Wolf Rider
Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster: NY, 1986.

Andy's father no longer trusts him, and the police arrange counselling at his school for him, after he contacts the police about a murder that has not happened. Everyone believes it is a hoax except him. He learns that the "victim" is a real person and wants to ensure her safety. It is upsetting that no one takes his warnings seriously including her. Andy tries to allay the suspicions of his father, the counselor, and the police. Continuing his own investigating he could either end up in jail or a victim himself.
related-father and son relationships, Good Samaritan, mystery, detective stories

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