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'WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN, ANYWAY?' by Avi Kirkus Star

'WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN, ANYWAY?'

By Avi

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-531-05457-8
Publisher: Orchard

Gorged on an excess of radio drama, "Chet Barker, Master Spy" (a.k.a. sixth-grader Frankie Wattleston) drags "Skipper O'Malley" (Mario Calvino), his "faithful but brilliant sidekick," into a series of hilarious misadventures. Banished to the basement when his brother Tom returns, wounded and shell-shocked, from WW II, Frankie vows to get his room back by driving out the family boarder (a humorless medical student) and to introduce Torn to his luscious teacher--the very image, he thinks, of Veronica Lake. Reading this is like listening to an old radio show; interspersing episodes about the Green Hornet, Lone Ranger, and other masked heroes, Avi writes entirely in dialogue (a tricky device that succeeds here because each character has such a distinct voice), making for a breathless pace and rich, imaginative comedy. Despite setbacks--including literal and figurative skeletons in the closet--Frankie's schemes are wildly successful; and though he pays the price for his obsession with radio by being left hack, six months later he has his room back and a new sister-in-law. A characteristically multilayered tour-de-force (cf. Avi's 1992 Newbery honor book): an entertaining farce; an outspoken satire on the mesmerizing effects of the media; and a thought-provoking contrast between the heroic fantasies of a boy deprived of his busy parents' attention and the horrors of real war. (Fiction. 11-13)