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January 10, 2010
BOOKBEAT By CHERYL KELLY, Children’s Librarian, Salem Public Library

Children's author Avi seems like an unlikely candidate to be an author of over 60 children's books. As a child he was shy and not an overly good student. In fact, he failed all his classes when he started high school so his parents moved him to a smaller school that specialized in reading and writing. It was then that they discovered that Avi was disgraphic (a disability that caused Avi to reverse letters and misspell words.) By his senior year, Avi had made a dramatic change. Not only did he gain confidence in his writing skills, he decided to become a writer. He started his career as a playwright but shifted to children's literature after a few years. He states that he was able to make the shift when he started writing for readers instead of for himself.

Two things that this award-winning author is known for are his ability to write for readers at all reading levels and his ability to write in several genres. He has written picture books, a graphic novel, and a documentary, but he is best known for his mysteries and historical fiction. He won the Newbery Award for "Crispin, Cross of Lead," and two Newbery Honor Awards for "Nothing But the Truth" and "The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle." Some of his most recent books are "Seer of Shadows," "Iron Thunder," and "Traitor's Gate."

Because of his own disability, Avi enjoys speaking to students who are learning disabled. As a student, he remembers being considered sloppy, erratic, and being told that he did not pay attention. Eventually he taught himself to become immune to this sort of criticism. Now, when he speaks to students, he brings copies of his book drafts to show them how, even though he has experienced success as a writer, he still makes mistakes.

Many of Avi's books are available at Salem Public Library. Readers can reserve copies by contacting the Children's Department or visiting the library's Web site at



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