Avi and his twin sister were born in New York City to Joseph Wortis, a psychiatrist, and Helen Wortis, a social worker. When he was a year old, his sister gave him the nickname “Avi.” Two of Avi’s grandfathers were writers, and one grandmother was a playwright. In interviews, he recalled his mother reading to him and his sister every night, and going to the public library on Fridays. He is also the first cousin of the Academy Award-winning actor Alan Arkin. Avi’s parents transferred him from Stuyvesant High School to Elisabeth Irwin High School, a smaller private school. There, he studied with a tutor, Ella Ratner, whom he credits for his writing success. He struggled in school due to suffering from dysgraphia, a writing disorder.
Avi has written more than 75 books. He has written books for different age groups and in many different genres including historical fiction, fantasies, graphic novels, comedies, mysteries, ghost stories, adventure tales, realistic fiction, and picture books. He has won awards for some of his books including a Newbery Honor for The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle in 1991 and another for Nothing But the Truth in 1992. His fiftieth book, Crispin: The Cross of Lead, was awarded the Newbery Medal in 2003. Avi’s book Iron Thunder, about the ironclad Monitor and its battle with the CSS Virginia in Hampton Roads, Virginia, was selected as the 2009 Beacon of Freedom Award winner by Williamsburg Regional Library and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Avi has published more than 70 books, all written for children/young adults. In 2006, Avi wrote a sequel to Crispin: The Cross of Lead titled Crispin: At the Edge of the World. The third part of the series, Crispin: The End of Time was published in 2010. His most recent novels, Catch You Later, Traitor and Old Wolf were met with critical success. In 2016, a collection of short stories was published by Candlewick Press, The Most Important Thing: Stories about Sons, Fathers, and Grandfathers. After living in Providence, Rhode Island in the 1980s and 1990s, Avi now lives in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, with his wife, Linda Cruise Wright.