Avi: One Quality Book After Another
Editor's Note: I had a chance to interview Avi in connection with the release of his latest book. That interview is below, and the review of his book is here.
Part 2: More on Crispin
He says he gets his inspirations from a wide range of sources. The Secret School, for instance, grew out of his realization that the dominant fact in most kids' lives is school. He has school-age children, too, so he should know.
And Nothing But the Truth (a Newbery Honor winner) came from the idea that what one person says is not necessarily what another person hears. (This book is particularly interesting because its entire contents look like a play or a long dialogue between characters.)
As for Crispin, he is excited to see how it is received. Returning to the world of historical fiction, in which he won a Newbery Honor for The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Avi tells the story of a young boy who loses his family but not his identity.
In a sense, he says, the main character goes through what every kid goes through: a search for sense of self, sense of freedom, sense of determining who he is. "Every kid does that, to a certain extent," he said.
Avi said that for Crispin, he did more research than for any book he's ever written. "It's one of those periods of time where if you read a lot, you get to know it," he said. And the more he read, the more he liked. "This is one of my favorite periods of history," he said. "There's a complexity to the culture that I really enjoy learning more about."
Several of the things that happen in this book are violent, including the ending, and the author says those were necessary.
"I was trying to write an honest and truthful portrayal of the period," he said. "You could write a book without that, but not in the true sense of the period."
Avi actually combined his love of historical research and his newfound appreciation of modern computers when he went looking for a map showing England in the 14th Century.
"I wanted to find a map of London in the 14th century, but I couldn't find one, so I went on the Internet," he said. "I went to a site for the London Museum of History. I posted a question in a forum, saying 'What is the best 14th-century map for England?' Two weeks later, the curator of a museum's medieval section told me that a 1947 book had the best map of the 14th century. So through interlibrary loan, my local public library got the book and I got to see the map. Amazing!"
Not one to slow down, Avi is already working on other projects, including another book set in Crispin's time period.