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Story Behind the Story #23: Windcatcher


For a short time I lived in Connecticut, and for some reason or other I came upon a US government map (I like maps) of its southern coast. That’s when I discovered the Thimble Islands, which, to quote Wikipedia, “is an archipelago consisting of small islands in Long Island Sound, located in and around the harbor of Stony Creek in the southeast corner of Branford, Connecticut.”

Aside from the charm of the name, I was struck with the fact that these islands were relatively close to shore, and close to one another. I had also recently purchased a tiny sailboat with a friend, something called a Snark. It was barely more than a styrene cup with a sail. But I learned to sail it—one man in size—and greatly enjoyed myself.

Put all these things together, and it is easy to see how I conceived the plot of Windcatcher, a boy’s adventure with a small sailboat midst the Thimble islands. Moreover, by the time I was writing it, I was living in Providence, Rhode Island, with its Portuguese population, and that added another element. The editor and I also agreed to put a map of the Thimble Islands in the end papers.

But by the time it was all done I had just published The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, which was very well received. Windcatcher seemed—to me—a very modest book, at least compared to Charlotte’s tale.

In fact I decided not to publish it. Indeed, I remember putting my hand on the phone, ready to call the editor, to say, “Cancel it.”

I hesitated, thought of the publishing complications that would follow, and then took my hand from the phone.

Windcatcher was published, my younger readers enjoyed it a great deal, it garnered good reviews, and did quite well. It’s still around.

There’s one odd thing that happened. Shortly before publication the editor called me, and said, “Avi, was it you who put names to all those small islands?”

“No. I got them from a US Government map. Why?”

“The copy editor brought to my attention that two of the islands, which are side by side, are called, “Pot Island,” and “High Island.”

I confess I had not noticed. I checked the map. “That’s what they are called.”

“You have to change them.”



So if you look at the book, you will see “High” Island. But its nearest neighbor is called “Puddle”Island.

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