Article, Author Interviews, Book Resources

Avi Interview Transcript

  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

October 17-October 28, 2005, beloved author Avi participated in a bulletin board discussion with Scholastic students and teachers. Avi's books include Crispin: Cross of Lead, and Poppy.

You can also read the transcript for an earlier conversation with Avi.

Questions about Crispin

Discussion Question:
What do you think is the significance of Crispin’s name?

  • Student response: Obviously the name is noble and only for the high-born.

Discussion Question:
What did you learn about the Middle Ages from reading this book?

  • Student response: I learned that people didn't care as much if they killed each other. They're just like, "Oh, you killed a man? Okay, me too!" It's like a neutral feeling about the whole topic.

Discussion Question:
If you were Crispin, at what points would you have disobeyed Bear? What does it show about Crispin when he disobeys?

  • Student response: I probably would disobey Bear when he tied me to a tree. I would be totally scared at that part of the story. I would also disobey him when I saw that man following him by warning him. Otherwise, I would try not to make him angry.
  • Student response: If I were Crispin, I would not have disobeyed Bear because I wanted to stay alive. Bear was trying to keep him safe.
  • Student response: I would not have disobeyed Bear because we wouldn't feel safe.
  • Student response: If I were Crispin, I would not have disobeyed Bear because I would get in big trouble and Bear would not trust me.

Discussion Question:
What does Bear mean when he says, “I should like to be in Heaven before I die”? How does he try to achieve this?

  • Student response: I think that Bear means that he wants to make himself a heaven on earth. With no fighting, etc.

Discussion Question:
How would you describe the relationship between Crispin and Bear? How does it evolve?

  • Student response: Bear was like a father to Crispin because Bear was always there for him.
  • Student response: Crispin was like a son to Bear because Bear loved him and taught him his way of life, and Crispin saved him when he was in danger.
  • Student response: The relationship was pretty good. Crispin and Bear took care of each other.
  • Student response: Very strong because they watched out for each other and tried to take care of each other. Bear was like a father figure to Crispin, who didn't know who his father was.

More Questions about Crispin
I LOVED this book! To me, it seemed like you set it up for a sequel… hint hint. Are you planning to write one?
I am working on the new Crispin book. It's called Crispin at the Edge of the World. Be out next fall.

Do you play any instruments, since Bear knew to play the recorder?
I once tried to play the recorder.

What were you thinking as you were writing Crispin?
How to write a good book.

When you wrote Crispin, what was your message? What were you trying to get the reader to understand?
In my books I try to tell a good story, not give messages.

What made you think about the name Crispin? Did you know someone named that?
I just liked the name.

Did you feel a little lonely, scared, and hurt when you wrote Crispin: The Cross of Lead?
Not at all.

What inspired you to write Crispin?
Just thought I had a good story to tell. 

Is Crispin one of your most favorite books, and if so, why?
I really don't have a favorite. But Crispin did win the Newbery. That was kind of it.

 

Questions about Poppy

Discussion Question:
In what ways does Mr. Ocax act like a bully? Why does he tell the mice he protects them? Does he really protect them?

  • Student response: If the mice don't do what he wants, Mr.Ocax will eat them.
  • Student response: Ocax acts like a bully because he thinks that mice are losers and owls are the best. Also, he thinks that owl are not scared of anything, but that is not true because Mr. Ocax is scared of  the porcupine that Poppy meets on the way to New House.
  • Student response: Mr. Ocax thinks that he's better than the mice because he's bigger. He wants to be a ruler or king. He doe's not protect them.
  • Student response: He was acting like a bully by not letting them move to New House. He says that he wants to protect them from New House because he is scared of Ereth. No, he doesn't protect them.
  • Student response: Mr. Ocax is a bully because he lies, eats mice, and tells them a porcupine will eat them. And also makes mean threats. He tells the mice, "I'll protect you from that mean Mr. Porcupine." He just wants someone with him to eat and not find out his frightful secret of Ereth. Mr. Ocax does not protect him all. He is, a big baby that lies.
  • Student response: I think Mr. Ocax is a bully because he eats the mice. I also think Mr.Ocax says he protects them so he can swoop down and eat them while they least expect it. I think he so does not protect them because he eats them.
  • Student response: The mice go and ask him, and he eats them and tells them he didn't ask. So he can eat them when they ask. No, he doesn't protect them.

Discussion Question:
Why do you think Poppy’s family dislikes Ragweed so much? What does Poppy love about him?

  • Student response: I think that Poppy's family don't like him because he is from another place or not there.
  • Student response: I think they disliked Ragweed so much because they probably thought if his family ran out of food they would come to Gray House for food. Poppy loved Ragweed so much for his curiosity. She loves adventure, and she did it with Ragweed!!
  • Student response: They probably dislike him because they think he's a gangster mouse. Poppy thinks he's a brave and kind mouse.
  • Student response: Poppy's family has different feelings for him. Basil likes him a little. Lungwart does not like him for being like a hotshot. What is weird is that Poppy likes him for that trait.
  • Student response: I think Poppy's family dislikes Ragweed because he was so curious. He always has a question, and he is very daring. He is a daredevil. I think Poppy loves him because he is different.
  • Student response: I think nobody liked Ragweed because he was a golden mouse and Poppy is a deer mouse. Poppy likes that he is out going and funny.
  • Student response: They disliked the fact that Ragweed is a golden mouse, he wears an earring, and he is a risk-taker.
  • Student response: Poppy loves Ragweed because he is sometimes cautious, kind, and Poppy doesn't care that he might be a little different and is grateful he is her very own for the rest of her life.

Discussion Question:
Why is it so important to Poppy to get to New House? How does she show that she is very brave?

  • Student response: How does she show that she is very brave? Because she traveled alone to New House until he meet the porcupine.
  • Student response: Why is it so important for Poppy to get to New House? Because she want to find out what Mr. Ocax is hiding.
  • Student response: So her family could all live there instead of where they live now. She goes to New House by herself.
  • Student response: Poppy wanted to get to New House, not only for her family. She did it for Ragweed because she thought that's what he would do. I think she is brave. She really loves Ragweed.
  • Student response: She needs to get to New House because their family needs a home to live in. She shows bravery by going there.
  • Student response: I think that it is important to Poppy to go to New House because her family needs to move somewhere larger. And they need food because her family is getting larger. She shows that she is very brave by going herself to New House and by talking to a cat, an animal that can eat her but didn't.
  • Student response: It is important to Poppy because she wants to prove to her family that when she and Ragweed went up on Bannock Hill without permission that that wasn't the cause of Mr. Ocax saying no. She shows she is brave on her journey because she had to face a rushing river and get past Mr. Ocax on the way home.

Discussion Question:
How have all the mice’s lives changed by the end of the story?

  • Student response:  Now they can live free. They can move wherever they want, so they won't be eaten by Mr. Ocax.

More Questions about Poppy
How come Mr. Ocax gets porcupines and the mice confused sometimes, and why do they have to ask his permission to go through Dimwood?
Because he is a dictator. Dictators always lie.

How on earth did you get the idea of a mouse named Poppy?
By looking around the earth.

I like the rat when he goes to the porcupine's nest.

If you were in the novel Poppy, which character would you be?
Walnut.

How did you feel when you wrote Poppy?
I liked the book.

Why did you choose a cat as Ragweed's enemy?
Cats and mice — seemed a natural. 

How did you choose the character's names in Poppy?
They are all kinds of flowers.

Why did you make Ereth like salt so much? Do porcupines really like salt?
Yes, porcupines really love salt. I don't know why.

 

Questions about Both Novels

Discussion Question:
What do you think both of these novels have to say about freedom?

  • Student response: I think Poppy had a lot of freedom, but unlike Crispin, he doesn't. I love your books! I have read all of them.

 

General Questions for Avi

Hi, Avi. Many teachers use your books during reading instruction. Currently, one group of teacher candidates is getting ready to read your book The Fighting Ground. What suggestions do you have for teachers who would like to use your books during literacy instruction?
I think the most important thing is to enjoy the story. I don't like the idea of a book being a test, or being used for a test. The way — in my opinion — to make good readers is to let kids choose their own books and NOT test them.

What TV shows do you watch?
The truth is I don't watch TV at all. It bores me.

What made you want to write about magic in Midnight Magic? How did you come up with names like Fabrizio, Mangus, and Teresina?
It's just fun to do.

In the book Ereth's Birthday, what kind of animal is Marty?  Why did you choose this particular animal for Marty the fisher?
He is a fisher. He was chosen because he's one of the few animals that prey on porcupines.

Who dies in Perloo the Bold?
P.S. My friends tell me it is good.
Your friend is right. Read the book.

What is your real name?
Dghtyto Bvith Bnpht Ingworht Quvopt Jr.

What do you do for fun?
I like to cook. Photography is my hobby.

In Nothing but the Truth, why did you write the book like a play? I have enjoyed your book Nothing but the Truth. I am on page 94. It's interesting so far. Will you please tell us your birth name? I won't tell. PLEASE!
Every book I write has a style that tries to fit the content. Nothing but the Truth lets the reader decide what is happening.

What inspired you to write Perloo the Bold, and are Montmers real creatures?
The work is a fantasy. I wanted to write a fantasy set in the Colorado mountains.

What inspired you to write Nothing but the Truth, because it is really good?
My inspiration derives solely from my desire to tell a good story.

Where did you get the name Charlotte Doyle?
Popular name in Providence during the 19th century.

What is your favorite book that you wrote?
Don't have one.

How long did it take to write your longest book?
Fourteen years to write Bright Shadow.

What made motivated you to write Midnight Magic?
Just had a good idea that seemed to work.

You should make a movie of Charlotte Doyle. Have you ever thought of doing that?
There is a movie being made right now.

I've read Nothing but the Truth and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, and I liked them both. I know you only go by Avi, but I know that's not your real birth name. I looked at the other answered questions, and you said your name is a mystery. I was wondering if Avi has anything to do with your real name. Can you give me a hint?
Here's a hint. In one of my books there is a character with my real name. Only the last name is spelled backwards.

I love the book the True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle! I am going to write a book someday, but I need some ideas of what to write about. Can you help me? I want it to be something about a girl around my age (10). Thank you.
Every writer has to think up her own ideas.

Do you do a lot of research for the books you've written?
For the historical fiction I do a great deal. 

What inspired you to be a writer?
My love of reading.

How did you feel when you wrote your first book?
Just fine and curious as to what people would think of it. 

How old were you when you started writing?
Six, when in first grade.

What interested you in writing about mice in many of your books?
They are just fun to write about.

Do you plan on writing any other books soon?
I'm working on four books.

Do any of your books relate to your life in any way, and how?
Often they are based on people I know, places of been, things I've seen, thought or felt. But never an actual person.

I have read book one and two of the Lord Kirkle series, but what happened to Lawrence and the gang in America? Did he ever reunite with his father in England? What about Maura and Patrick? I want more!  Any chance on a third book? Mrs C.
I think about it. But I haven't done it.

Hi, Avi. My name is Doug M. I am in 7th grade. I am reading your book Crispin for a book report. It is a really great book, full of action and adventure. I am not far enough in the book to find out what the cross of lead has on it. I hope you make another Crispin book. That one is not enough. What other book do you recommend?
You might like The Fighting Ground.

Are you going to write a sequel to The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle? Our class loves the first one.
I don't think I ever will.

Thank you so much for writing Emily Upham's Revenge! It is my favorite book. I have read it six times! I would love to be an author when I grow up. Do you have any tips for me? Do you have the names and addresses of any publishing company's that you can give me? Thank you! Bye!
read read read read read
read read read read read
read read read read read
read read read read read
read read read read read
read read read read read
read read read read read
read read read read read
read read read read read
read read read read read
read read read read read
read read read read read
read read read read read
read read read read read
read read read read read
read read read read read . . . then write.

I thought that The End of the Beginning was really funny. Are you going to make another book on one of Avon's and Edward's adventures?
I'm supposed to write a sequel to it. I'll try.

Hi Avi, I really like The Secret School. I liked learning that there were one-room school houses in Colorado. Is there a series for The Secret School?
I haven't thought of a sequel yet.

I am a third-grade student. We have read The End of the Beginning and The Secret School. I wanted to know why you named the ant Edward and the snail Avon.
I named Edward and Avon after friends of mine. 

Hi, Avi. I'm really enjoying The Secret School. This is the first of your books that I've heard, but now I'm determined to read more of your books. I take that back; my teacher has read us The End of the Beginning. Did Ida ever get to college? Thank you.
I don't know what happened to Ida.

I enjoyed reading The End of the Beginning. The book was so funny I could barely handle it. Your books are great!
Thank you.

Hi, Avi. I really like The Secret School. Where did you get all those ideas? I wish I could be a writer like you. You are a great writer!
By thinking really hard.

My class is almost done with The Secret School. My favorite character is Ida because whenever Ida has a problem she always fixes it. The question I have for you is, at the end of the book do Ida and Felix have any more problems to face? Thank you.
You have to finish the book.

Hi, Avi. I have read The Secret School. Who does Ida like better, Herbert or Tom? How did you get all these ideas? Does Felix like Mary? Thank you.
The story ends when the story ends.

I am fascinated by your books! I especially like your book The End of the Beginning. I hope Avon and Edward have more adventures!
I’m supposed to think of a sequel. We’ll see.

The End of the Beginning is very good! If I ever get to reading all your books I'll probably love all your books. You are a very good author. How do you do it? Thank you.
I work very hard.

Our teacher read The End of the Beginning to us. I really liked the book and I'm really impressed. How did you get the name Avi? Thanks!
My sister gave me the name Avi. 

For a few weeks we have been reading your wonderful book, The Secret School. We enjoy learning about Ida and her friends. Does Ida like Tom more than Hebert? Thank you!
That's a private matter. You'll have to ask her.

Hi, I am a fan of The Good Dog. Just to tell you, I'm not finished with the book yet. What happens with the wolf and McKinley? And does Duchess get found? Well, those are all my questions. See ya. P.S: Where do Jack and McKinley lives?
You'll have to finish the book to get answers. The story is set in Steamboat Springs. 

I am a third-grade teacher. My class has recently read The Secret School as a read-aloud. We enjoy learning about Ida and her friends and the problems that they face. We are very impressed with the determination that your characters possess. We are curious to know if there are any one-room schoolhouses that still exist in Colorado.
There are quite a few.

Do like to play football, and do you like to play basketball? If you don't play any, I wish I were there to teach you how to play both sports. I know you would have a lot of fun with a lot of people. AND I want to know if you have a lot of friends.
Yes, I have some good friends.

Why did you choose to be a writer when you could've done something else in your life?
I find writing a wonderful challenge. 

Do you have any other hobbies that you like other than writing books?
Writing is my profession. Photography is my hobby.

Did the little boy inspire you to write Something Upstairs? I really enjoyed it and would like you to make another one.
Maybe I will someday.

When did you start to get so interested in books?
When I started to read. 

What inspired you to write all of your books?
I enjoy making up stories that other people can enjoy. 

Do you like any sports? I like basketball. I like to play baseball. How about you?
I play a game called squash.

Do you like to play football, and who is your favorite team?
I root for the Denver Broncos. 

Was Something Upstairs a personal experience for you?
I did live in that house. The rest is fiction. 

Do you ever wish you had five wishes? If you did, what would you wish for?
Peace, plenty, happiness, kindness, and humor for everybody.

What year did you write The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle? And what grade did you get?
I wrote CD about 12 years ago. Never did get a grade.

How many books have you written altogether?
60. 

I wanted to ask you what school you went to as a kid and what it felt like to not know how to read and write. I know you learned and took classes for it, but I would hate if I failed all my classes in high school. I would feel horrible and ashamed even if I had a problem.
Shame doesn't help anyone. You need only work as hard as you can.

When did you start your first book, and what was it about?
Things that Sometimes Happen. 1986. It has short stories for short people.

My question for you is, do you ever think about making a movie or a sequel to the book The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle?
Someone is making a movie right now.

What became of your brother and sister after you became an author? Why were you a librarian for 25 years when you could have been a famous author all those years?
It took a long time for me to earn enough with my writing. My brother and sister keep living their own lives.

Is it true that you have reading disabilities? If yes, how has this impacted you as a writer?
I have no reading disabilities. But a do have some dyslexic symptoms. 

What did you enjoy the most when writing The Fighting Ground? What do you find to be the most difficult when writing books?
It's always fun to write something that goes well.

Do you ever wish you weren't an author?
Fridays at about five o clock. 

  • Subjects:
    Achievement and Success, Creativity and Imagination, Pride and Self-Esteem
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