Title: RadioMan | Author: Arthur Dorros | Spanish translation by Sandra Marulanda Dorros | Illustrator: Arthur Dorros | Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers | Date of Publication: 1993 | ISBN: 0-06-021548-8 (lib. bdg.) | Number of pages: 40 | Grade Level: 1-5 | Literary Trend: Spotlight on Diversity
Dorros, A. (1993). RadioMan. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
Radioman is a touching tale of Diego and his family that spend most of the year following crops as migrant workers. Spanning the course of one season, Diego’s family travels from dusty Texas through small farming communities in Arizona, California and Washington. In Texas, Diego and his best friend David hope to reunite one day as their families plan to migrate once again. Diego, having been given the nickname Radioman by David, is always scanning the airwaves for music that his family can listen to while they work in the fields. Readers will be fascinated to see the perspective of young children who work alongside their families and read along as Diego transverses the south west, reuniting with friends and family along the way.
The book, written and illustrated by Arthur Dorros, offers a refreshing glimpse of life on the road for Spanish speaking migrant families and like La Maríposa by Francísco Jíménez, is a light read that does not call on cathartic plot devices to bring emotion to the characters. As the story progresses, subtle clues to the hard work that the entire family endures are laid out in the illustrations and an especially poignant scene where David, his dad and Grandfather sit in the front seat driving through the night is illuminated by the tiny vignette of his mother and sister sleeping in the back seat as seen from the rear-view mirror. At other times, Diego scans the rows of melons at a roadside market and wonders to himself if “those were the melons he and his family had picked.” Dorros’s illustrations are colorful and springy, and most certainly are reflective of careful research on the field conditions of farm workers, yet step back from showing the darker side of the harsh conditions that most migrant workers face, and instead offer a glimmering and hopeful perspective, which of course is ideal in a children’s book.
Both Booklist and Publishers Weekly are drawn to the “spot art” illustrations that separate the English and Spanish text “that effectively coordinate with the full page art” and text. Publishers Weekly places the story in high regards next to other tales of migrant farm workers, like Amelia’s Road and declares that Diego would be “just as interesting” regardless of his social environment. And Kirkus Review agrees that the “upbeat but largely realistic picture of migrant life” offers “an entertaining boost to bilingualism.” Published in 1993, Radioman arrived at a time when anti-immigration xenophobia was yet again rising in the southwestern United States. Dorros’s touching picture book, as Kirkus Reviews hints at, can be used as strong advocacy tool for the support of farm workers and their children.
Radioman offers young readers and their parents or teachers a chance to begin a dialog about the lives of migrant families in a way that is not unsettling, yet full of valuable learning moments that will allow them to ask “why do children work?” and “where does this food come from?” And they will also learn how people who are constantly on the move, kept in touch with loved ones by calling into radio programs, a practice that is still common even today.