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Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?


World War II is just background noise for Frankie Wattleson. His life revolves around action-packed radio dramas like "Buck Rodgers" and "The Lone Ranger." Suspense, heroism, thrills — what more could an American boy want?

Frankie's mom can't stand her son's hobby, though, and neither can his teacher, MissGomez. It all spells doomsday for Frankie — unless he, disguised as radio detective Chet Barker, can cook ...

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World War II is just background noise for Frankie Wattleson. His life revolves around action-packed radio dramas like "Buck Rodgers" and "The Lone Ranger." Suspense, heroism, thrills — what more could an American boy want?

Frankie's mom can't stand her son's hobby, though, and neither can his teacher, MissGomez. It all spells doomsday for Frankie — unless he, disguised as radio detective Chet Barker, can cook up a plan to save the day.

Tune in tomorrow to find out how this hilarious drama unfolds!

In the early forties when nearly everyone else is thinking about World War II, sixth-grader Frankie Wattleson gets in trouble at home and at school because of his preoccupation with his favorite radio programs.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As expertly crafted as Avi's Nothing But the Truth , this lightning-paced satire set during WW II shows how Franklin D. Wattleson, a superhero fan, creates his own brand of adventure when taking on the identity of ``Chet Barker, master spy.'' With best friend Mario, 12-year-old Frankie stirs up considerable excitement and trouble carrying out his plot to dispose of evil scientist Mr. Swerdlow (the Wattlesons' upstairs boarder) and marrying off brother Tom (a wounded vet) to sixth-grade teacher Miss Gomez (whose fiance was recently killed in action). Ignoring continual reprimands for neglecting homework and snooping into other people's affairs, Frankie manages to complete his mission successfully. Nostalgia buffs in particular will be drawn to this book, which contains segments of old-time radio serials and commercials. Besides providing much hilarity, this ingeniously structured montage of broadcasts, fantasies and conversations exposes many ironies of heroism and war. Ages 9-up. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
This story reads like a radio script in book form. Frankie, eleven, is the unforgettable protagonist who would be a soap opera groupie today, but in the 1940's, he was one of the many who were so enamored with radio programs like "The Shadow," "The Lone Ranger," "The Green Hornet," etc. that they lived their lives as though it were another episode. Omitting 'he said' and 'she said,' this presents the real conversation of kids. In the process we are not only entertained but learn about the social conventions of the day, reactions to W.W.II and get insight into Frankie's soldier brother's response to war and heroism. A read-aloud must! 1994 (orig.
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
Frankie is sure that the boarder in his parents' house is a vampire, since he seems to collect body parts (we know he's a medical student). He knows that if his brother, home from World War II, would only meet his teacher, they'd fall in love and all his problems would be over. He's sure he can be a detective, like his favorite radio hero. To prove it, he ropes his best friend Mario into his schemes, and if their teacher, Miss Gomez, weren't a marvel of patience and fortitude, they'd be in real trouble. The audience for this exciting adventure is probably kids whose parents have raised them on tales of sitting at home listening to the radio and getting so wrapped up in the radio's adventures that they conveniently forgot about school, homework, friends (except those who were also living in the fantasy world of radio). Those kids will love this book. So will their parents. ALA Notable Book. 1994 (orig.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
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, "Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?" His format is fitted to plot, character, and setting to bring alive the story of the never-to-be forgotten Franklin D. Wattleson. Frankie, growing up in 1945 Brooklyn, is addicted to radio, especially superheros. The story moves as quickly as one of the breathless radio excerpts. With apparent facility, Avi reveals Frankie's problems at home, school, the draw to becoming an alter identity, and finally the growth from self-involvement to seeing a larger picture. Dialogue is the perfect vehicle for a young boy finding a voice to call for help in a world that is taken up with global concerns.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6It's 1945, and when Frankie isn't re-enacting his favorite radio dramas, he's spying on a "mad scientist" who has rented a room in his parents' house. Touching, funny, and totally original, the story is told completely through dialogue and excerpts from old programs. (Oct. 1992)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380721139
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/28/1994
  • Series: Avon Camelot Bks.
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 176
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 420L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.16 (w) x 7.69 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Avi is the author of more than sixty books, including Crispin: The Cross of Lead, a Newbery Medal winner, and Crispin: At the Edge of the World. His other acclaimed titles include The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Nothing But the Truth, both Newbery Honor Books, and most recently The Seer of Shadows. He lives with his family in Colorado.


Born in Manhattan in 1937, Avi Wortis grew up in Brooklyn in a family of artists and writers. Despite his bright and inquisitive nature, he did poorly in school. After several academic failures, he was diagnosed with a writing impairment called dysgraphia which caused him to reverse letters and misspell words. The few writing and spelling skills he possessed he had gleaned from his favorite hobby, reading -- a pursuit enthusiastically encouraged in his household.

Following junior high school, Avi was assigned to a wonderful tutor whose taught him basic skills and encouraged in him a real desire to write. "Perhaps it was stubbornness," he recalled in an essay appearing on the Educational Paperback Association's website, "but from that time forward I wanted to write in some way, some form. It was the one thing everybody said I could not do."

Avi finally learned to write, and well! He attended Antioch University, graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and received a master's degree in library science from Columbia in 1964. He worked as a librarian for the New York Public Library's theater collection and for Trenton State College, and taught college courses in children's literature, while continuing to write -- mostly plays -- on the side. In the 1970s, with two sons of his own, he began to craft stories for children. "[My] two boys loved to hear stories," he recalled. "We played a game in which they would give me a subject ('a glass of water') and I would have to make up the story right then. Out of that game came my first children's book, Things That Sometimes Happen." A collection of "Very Short Stories for Little Listeners," Avi's winning debut received very positive reviews. "Sounding very much like the stories that children would make up themselves," raved Kirkus Reviews, "these are daffy and nonsensical, starting and ending in odd places and going sort of nowhere in the middle. The result, however, is inevitably a sly grin."

Avi has gone on to write dozens of books for kids of all ages. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1991) and Nothing but the Truth (1992) were named Newbery Honor Books, and in 2003, he won the prestigious Newbery Medal for his 14th-century adventure tale, Crispin: The Cross of Lead. His books range from mysteries and adventure stories to historical novels and coming-of-age tales; and although there is often a strong moral core to his work, he leavens his message with appealing warmth and humor. Perhaps his philosophy is summed up best in this quote from his author profile on Scholastic's website: "I want my readers to feel, to think, sometimes to laugh. But most of all I want them to enjoy a good read."

Good To Know

In a Q&A with his publisher, Avi named Robert Louis Stevenson as one of his greatest inspirations, noting that "he epitomizes a kind of storytelling that I dearly love and still read because it is true, it has validity, and beyond all, it is an adventure."

When he's not writing, Avi enjoys photography as one of his favorite hobbies.

Avi got his unique nickname from his twin sister, Emily..

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    1. Also Known As:
      Avi Wortis (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 23, 1937
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Episode One

"And now...

"Ovaltine--that superdelicious drink that builds bright minds and strong bodies eight ways--presents...

"'The Radio Adventure Hour'!

"You are about to hear a series of strange, exciting, and perilous adventures that will lead us to all parts of the world.

"But first, we take you to France. The war has reached a moment of crisis. The Allied army is close to terrible destruction.

"In a small, bombproof dugout the light of a candle flame flickers across the strained face of a general of the Allied army. Outside, the night is dark and cold. Suddenly, we hear--"

"Major Steel?"

"Sir, everything is prepared."

"You I ve found the man?"

"I have."

"What is his name? No! It s better that I don't know."

"I agree with you, sir."

"There are only two people in the world who know the mission to which he has been assigned. You and our leader in Washington."

"Yes, sir."

"Major, do you think he has a chance?"

"I'm afraid the odds against him are about one hundred to one."

"If he fails, it will be terrible for us all. It will--But enough of that. Bring him in."

"Yes, sir."

"Wait! I don't want to see his face. Blow out the candle."

"Yes, sir."

"Now bring him in."

"Yes, sir. Will you come in, Captain? The man is before you, sir."

"You have your instructions?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then I want you to be sure you understand the risks you are facing.

"I do."

"If you fail tonight, it will be the end for all of us. If you are successful, our country will be saved from defeat.Do you understand?"

"I do."

"Also, if you succeed tonight, you will have started a long and perilous task that, if you live, may require your lifetime to complete. Is that clear?"

"Yes, General. Very clear."

"Above all, you understand that the ultimate purpose is the extermination of the most rascally and menacing criminal in the world! A traitor to the United States! A Rend who has cost the lives of thousands of your countrymen! I am speaking of the one known as...Ivan Carr." "I understand."

"You are ready to go?"

"My plane stands outside the door."

"Good. How long do you think it will be before we know the outcome of this night's venture?"

"Sir, if I've not returned by midnight, you will know I've failed."

"You are a brave man, Captain. Now, Godspeed."

"Thank you, sir."

"And so, into the night roars a plane piloted by a lone man upon whose shoulders rests the fate of his country.

"Hours later--"

"AW, MA! Turn the radio back on! The show's almost over!"

"Frankie, you're supposed to be doing homework, not listening to garbage!"

"Ma, it"s not garbage. It's 'Captain Midnight . ' Please! Can't I just listen to the end of the program?"

"That's all you're interested in-radio. Now get up to your room. Seat! Go on!"

"I'm going."

"All this racket....Your father will be home tired and upset."

"He's always tired and upset."

"Young man, in case you didn't Iknow it, there's a world war going on. There"s a service star in our window."

"Just means family's in the war."

"Frankie! Your brother got wounded fighting for your freedom."

"What about the freedom to listen to the radio?"

"Franklin Delano Wattleson, do you want me to destroy that radio?"


"Then go up to your room immediately and do your homework for once!"

"Do you know when Tom's coming home?"

"When he's well enough. Now, go!"

"I'm going."

"And be quiet. Mr. Swerdlow is studying."

"He went out."

"I don't care where he went."

"HEY, MARIO! Psst! Mario! Open your window! I have to talk to you."

"I'm doing my homework."

"You're always doing your homework."

"Yeah, well, we're supposed to."

"Oh, boy, you're so lucky to have a radio in your room. Wish I could."

"What do you want?"

"Did you hear 'Captain Midnight'? It was about how he began."

"I was doing my long divisions."

"That mean you finished your math?"


"I was going to. But 'Sky King' came on and he was being chased by giants. Then 'Captain Midnight.' It was so great I forgot about my math ."

"Frankie, I gotta go. My mother wants me to have my schoolwork done by the time she gets home."

"Mario! Wait!"


"What about geography? You get the principal products of Australia?"


"Hand them over."

"You know, one of these days when I pass my homework to you, it's going to drop between the buildings.

"I'd go down and get it."

"What if it were night and it was dark?"

"Streetlamp shines through."

"Or your glasses broke."

"I'd feel my way."

"Anyway, how come I'm the one that always does the homework?"

"'Cause you're the one that gets the A's."


"I don't get them in anything."

"Miss Gomez says you're a daydreamer. And Billy says you're setting a world record for being kept in after school. Thirty-eight times."

"None of his beeswax."

"Miss Gomez knows you copy my work."

"How come?"

"She asked me."

"Gee whillikers, you told?"

"Well, she wanted to know why we always have the same answers. So I said we live in these houses with rooms and windows opposite, so we work together. Then I said your father works two jobs. That your brother got wounded in the Pacific and will be home soon. That your mother takes in a boarder whose name is Mr. Swerdlow, who's studying to be a doctor."

"Why'd you tell her all that?"

"She asked me."

"Nosey Parker...Hey, Mario...

Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?. Copyright © by John Avi. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2002

    a reviewer

    This book is about kids that are trying to find out who is behind the mask. An what they are trying to steal. I recommend it to everybody who likes mistery books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2000

    I thought it was pretty good

    I thought the book 'Who Was That Masked Man Anyway?' was a pretty good book. I liked it because it was kind of short and it didn't have any narration. At first I didn't think it would be that great, but it turned out to be pretty good. But I have to say that it wasn't one of my favorite books. I am not a big fan of adventures and stuff like that. It was different to read an adventure book. One of the cool parts was of the story was the radio adventure shows. Those were kind of cool. I would tell people who love adventure stories to read 'Who Was That Masked Man Anyway?'. It was good for me to read a different book for a change. I liked it when Frankie and Mario went on adventures like they did. Like I said before, people who like spy stories would love this book

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