|Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?
A funny, historical novel that is virtually all dialogue. It's the spring of 1945 in Brooklyn, and Frankie and Mario—inspired by the heroics of the Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet, and the Shadow, among others—set out to right the wrongs of their world. And no one can escape being part of their hilarious adventures.
Behind the Book
Avi writes: I am not sure what is my best book, but I do think this is my funniest book. It’s also my most unusual. It is all—one hundred percent—dialogue. It’s about radio, the kind of radio I listened to when I was a kid—Superman, The Shadow, and perhaps my favorite, The Lone Ranger, from which the title derives. I was a big reader as a kid—still am—but there are times I believe what has most influenced me as a writer was those radio shows I listened to. Just consider how much dialogue there is in my books! The fact is, I truly loved writing this book. Radio was so much fun. I wish it were still with us in that old-fashioned way. I would love to write radio shows.
Awards and Honors
ALA Notable, 1993
“Avi's pulled off another coup! This author must delight in accomplishing the impossible. This time he's written an entire novel in conversation, including the title … In the process we are not only entertained but learn about the social conventions of the day, reactions to WWII and get insight into Frankie's soldier brother's response to war and heroism. A read-aloud must!” (Children's Literature)
Try reading portions of the book out loud in class as a radio play. We suggest Episode 3 or Episode 11 as a place to start.
Examine how dialogue in a book is different from everyday dialogue. Here's an article by Avi to get you started.
Watch Empire of the Air: the Men Who Made Radio, a Ken Burns documentary, on PBS Online.
Listen to hundreds of free radio programs online, some as a series, on RadioLovers.com. Search for "old time radio" and you'll find many other sites with free radio shows.
Challenge your students to write an ongoing radio serial, with speaking parts for everyone in the class. This can engage students in writing, research, revision, information text, history, communications, and speech.
Selected Bibliography for Further Study
The Great American Broadcast: a Celebration of Radio's Golden Age, Leonard Maltin, New American Library, 1997
On the Air: the Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, John Dunning, New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Raised on Radio, Gerald Nachman, University of California Press, 1998.
Radio Days, a film directed by Woody Allen, Orion Pictures, 1987.
Remembering Radio: an Oral History of Old-Time Radio, David S. Siegel, BearManor Media, 2010.
"Romance of Radio," an essay from Empire of the Air: the Men Who Made Radio, Ken Burns, PBS, 2004
"Using News and Old Time Radio Shows to Improve Language Skills," Barbara Castleton, Suite 101, September 19, 2011.
War of the Worlds, Orson Welles' radio broadcast from October 30, 1938, which famously caused a national panic. This is 57 minutes long, an audio version, which is broadcast on YouTube.
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