Dorros, Arthur 1950–

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DORROS, Arthur 1950–

(Arthur M. Dorros)


Surname is pronounced "doh-rohs"; born May 19, 1950, in Washington, DC; son of Sidney (an educator) and Dorothy Louise (a nurse) Dorros; married Sandra Marulanda (a teacher, translator, and editor), May, 1986 (divorced); children: Alex. Education: University of Wisconsin at Madison, B.A., 1972; Pacific Oaks College, postgraduate studies and teaching certification, 1979. Hobbies and other interests: Filmmaking, construction, carpentry, horticulture, hiking in Asia and Central and South America, Spanish language and literature.


Home—Seattle, WA. E-mail[email protected].


Writer and illustrator, 1979—. Worked variously as a builder, carpenter, drafter, photographer, horticultural worker, and dockhand; teacher in elementary and junior high schools and adult education programs in Seattle, WA, and New York, NY, for six years; artist in residence for more than a dozen New York City public schools, running programs in creative writing, bookmaking, and video; University of Washington, Seattle, WA, former teacher of courses on writing in the classroom; consultant in libraries and schools; director of Children's Writing Workshop, presenting seminars and workshops on writing to students, teachers, and administrators in schools, libraries, and at conferences internationally.


Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.


Reading Rainbow book selections, 1986, for Alligator Shoes, 1989, for Ant Cities, and 1993, for Abuela; outstanding science book selections, Children's Book Council of the National Science Teachers Association, 1987, for Ant Cities, 1989, for Feel the Wind, and 1990, for Rain Forest Secrets; Pick of the Lists citation, American Booksellers Association, 1990, for Rain Forest Secrets, 1991, for Abuela, and 1992, for This Is My House; Tonight Is Carnaval was cited in Booklink 's "best of year" list, 1991; Abuela was named an American Library Association notable book and a Horn Book "20 Best," both 1991; Parent's Choice award, 1991, for Abuela; selection as "notable book in the field of social studies," National Council for the Social Studies, 1991, for Tonight Is Carnaval, 1993, for Radio Man/Don Radio, and 1995, for Isla; listed among "25 Best of the Year," Boston Globe, 1991, for Abuela; citation for "book of distinction," Hungry Mind Review, 1991, for Abuela; included in "Books for Children List," Children's Literature Center, Library of Congress, 1992, for Abuela and Tonight Is Carnaval; Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs commendation, 1995, for Isla; Book Award, American Horticultural Society, 1997, and Orbus Pictus Honor Book Award, National Council of Teachers of English, 1998, both for ATree Is Growing; Américas Award Commended Book, 2005, for Julio's Magic.


for children

Abuela, illustrated by Elisa Kleven, Dutton (New York, NY), 1991.

Tonight Is Carnaval, Dutton (New York, NY), 1991

Isla (fiction), illustrated by Elisa Kleven, Dutton (New York, NY), 1995.

A Tree Is Growing, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

The Fungus that Ate My School (fiction), illustrated by David Catrow, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

Ten Go Tango (fiction), illustrated by Emily Arnold Mc-Cully, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.

When the Pigs Took Over, illustrated by Diane Greenseid, Dutton (New York, NY), 2002.

City Chicken, illustrated by Henry Cole, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

Julio's Magic, illustrated by Ann Grifalconi, Harper-Collins (New York, NY), 2005.

(With son, Alex Dorros) Número Uno, illustrated by Susan Guevara, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2007.

Tonight Is Carnaval was translated into Spanish by Sandra Marulanda Dorros as Por Fin Es Carnaval, illustrated by Club de Madres Virgenes del Carmen, Dutton, 1991.

for children; and illustrator

Pretzels, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1981.

Alligator Shoes, Dutton (New York, NY), 1982.

Yum Yum (board book), Harper (New York, NY), 1987.

Splash Splash (board book), Harper (New York, NY), 1987.

Ant Cities (nonfiction), Harper (New York, NY), 1987.

Feel the Wind (nonfiction), Harper (New York, NY), 1989.

Rain Forest Secrets (nonfiction), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.

Me and My Shadow (nonfiction), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.

Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean (nonfiction), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.

This Is My House (nonfiction), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1992.

Animal Tracks (nonfiction), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1992.

Radio Man/Don Radio (bilingual), Spanish translation by Sandra Marulanda Dorros, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.

Elephant Families (nonfiction), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.

A Tree Is Growing (nonfiction), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

Also illustrator of the children's books Charlie's House, What Makes Day and Night, and Magic Secrets.


Under the Sun (young adult novel), Amulet Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Scriptwriter and photographer for filmstrips, including Teaching Reading, a Search for the Right Combination, National School Public Relations Association, and Sharing a Lifetime of Learning, National Education Association. Author and director of Portrait of a Neighborhood and other videos. Contributor of articles and illustrations to USA Today and other periodicals.


As Arthur Dorros wrote in a profile for Scholastic, Inc., he "never imagined" that he "would be making books someday" when he was a child growing up in Washington, DC. Nevertheless, the award-winning children's author loved to read and draw and was enthralled with animals. His family and friends fostered his latent talent. "First there was my grandfather, who would occasionally send me letters, all with the same drawing of a bird on them," he wrote. "Then there was the ninety-year-old neighbor who made sculptures out of tree roots he found, and my mother who kept a set of oil pastels in a drawer and would provide … art supplies or a bottle of tempera paint at the drop of a hat. And my father was a great storyteller."

Despite this environment, Dorros did not pursue drawing through elementary and junior high school. He remembers that he grew frustrated with his attempts to draw, and he "quit drawing in the fifth grade." He did not begin to draw again until he reached high school and had to draw amoebas and animals in biology class. He has been drawing ever since. Dorros makes a point of encouraging children to persist in their endeavors despite frustration. When he gives bookmaking seminars and workshops in schools internationally, he tells children that they should continue to create even if they make mistakes. Jeff Green reported in the Oakland Press that Dorros told a group of children: "I wasn't born an author. I had to learn, just like you guys. You have to keep on trying and don't let anyone make you stop."

Dorros himself began to create picture books at the age of twenty-nine, after exchanging stories with children who wandered close to watch him remodel houses. "I found I really enjoyed swapping stories, and my interest in making pictures had continued," he explained in his Scholastic profile. His first book, Pretzels, provides a whimsical account of the invention of the pretzel. The silly crew members of the Bungle let the anchor chain rust away, and the ship's cook, I Fryem Fine, replaces it with biscuit dough. When the salt-encrusted, dough anchor chain is no longer needed, the cook shapes it into a twisted biscuit. First Mate Pretzel loves the cook's invention so much that it is named after him. Two other tales," The Jungle "and" A New Land, "are also included in this account of the Bungle crew's adventures. With Dorros's "knack for writing straight-faced nonsense" and the book's "droll" pictures, concluded a commentator for Kirkus Reviews, Pretzels is "mighty companionable." A reviewer for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books wrote that the "ineptitude of the characters" and "humor in the writing style" may be enjoyed by children. A School Library Journal critic decided that the stories have a "refreshing, slightly off-the-wall feel…. Kids will enjoy the absurdities."

Dorros's next published work, Alligator Shoes, was inspired by his earliest childhood memory: sitting on an alligator's tail. In Alligator Shoes, an alligator fascinated with footwear visits a shoe store. Locked in after closing time, he tries on pair after pair, and finally falls asleep. When he wakes up in the morning, he hears a woman say that she would like a pair of alligator shoes. Realizing that not having shoes is better than becoming shoes, the alligator flees. Alligator Shoes was selected as a Reading Rainbow book.

The publication of Ant Cities in 1987 marked Dorros's debut as a writer of children's nonfiction. In Ant Cities, Dorros uses text and cartoon-like illustrations to explain ants and their various activities, from processing food to caring for eggs. Instructions for building an ant farm are also provided. A Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books contributor characterized the illustrations as "inviting and informative." Ellen Loughran, writing for School Library Journal, noted that the book would be a "useful addition to the science section." Ant Cities was selected as an Outstanding Science Book of 1987 by the National Science Teachers Association Children's Book Council. Feel the Wind and Rain Forest Secrets, also earned this distinction, and other picture books about science—Me and My Shadow, Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean, and Animal Tracks—have all been well received.

Dorros, who spent a year living in South America and speaks Spanish, made a much-needed contribution to children's literature in the United States with the publication of Abuela and Tonight Is Carnaval, which was translated by his former wife, Sandra Marulanda Dorros, and released in Spanish as Por Fin Es Carnaval. In Abuela, Rosalba imagines that she and her abuela (grandmother) fly together over New York City. While the text is primarily English, Spanish words are interspersed throughout the story. Readers may infer meaning from the text or look up these words in the glossary provided. The resulting book is, according to Molly Ivins, "just joyful." In a review for the New York Times Book Review Ivins asserted that Abuela "is a book to set any young child dreaming." Kate McClelland, writing in School Library Journal, concluded that the "innovative fantasy" will enrich "intellectually curious children who are intrigued by the exploration of another language."

In Tonight Is Carnaval a young boy tells of his community's preparation for carnaval. The tapestries, or arpilleras, sewn by Club de Madres Virgen del Carmen of Lima, Peru, illustrate the beauty and excitement of the cultural event Dorros describes. A reviewer for Horn Book described the book as "brilliant, beautiful … affirmative and valuable." Both Abuela and Tonight Is Carnaval have won several awards.

Dorros also wrote Radio Man/Don Radio. The story centers on friends Diego and David, children who are members of migrant farm worker families. Diego, who constantly listens to the radio, has earned the nickname of "Radio Man" from David. The boys lose touch with one another when Diego's family begins a journey to Washington State, where they intend to work in the apple orchards. Diego, however, finds a way to contact David through the radio. Reviewer Janice Del Negro noted in Booklist that the illustrations provided by Dorros lend "a solid sense of place and reflect the strong family ties and efforts at community Dorros conveys in his story."

The nonfiction book This Is My House conveys the respect and admiration for other cultures communicated by Abuela, Tonight Is Carnaval, and Radio Man/Don Radio. In this book, Dorros describes twenty-two houses around the world and discusses the climate in which they are built, the people whom they shelter, and their construction. These dwellings range from stone houses in Bolivia, to the car in which an otherwise homeless family in the United States lives. The phrase "This is my house" is included on every page in the language of the people who occupy each house. Mary Lou Budd, writing for the School Library Journal, praised this "engaging" book by noting that there is "unlimited value in the succinct, interesting text and pictures."

Dorros has continued writing children's books that serve the dual purpose of getting young readers familiar with Spanish and Latin American culture in such books as When the Pigs Took Over and Julio's Magic. In his picture books, Dorros uses his characteristic humor. When the Pigs Took Over, for example, features restaurant owner Don Carlos, whose penchant for wanting more and more of everything becomes too much for his guests and his sensible brother. When Don Carlos adds snails to his menu, he finds he needs birds to control the snails, and then pigs to control the birds, every time asking for more and more of the creatures until his business is overrun. While a Kirkus Reviews writer found Don Carlos's repeated cries for "Mas!" "aggravating," the reviewer added that "the rest of the trippingly fun story" keeps "the book afloat." A Publishers Weekly critic predicted that "this story and its clever ending will have children calling for mas when it's through."

Also writing more realistic tales featuring Latin American culture, Dorros weaves a story of friendship and consideration for others in Julio's Magic. Set in southern Mexico, the book features the title character, who has become a skilled wood carver, thanks to the teachings of his mentor, Iluminado. Friends and family encourage Julio to enter a contest in which he can win prize money, but instead of doing that, he helps Iluminado get his carvings ready because the older man has had a tough year financially. Julio reasons that he can always enter the contest another year, but his teacher needs help now. Linda M. Kenton described Julio's Magic in her School Library Journal review as "a compassionate intergenerational story," while Booklist critic Gillian Engberg enjoyed how the author "uses rich sensory descriptions and a few Spanish words to bring Julio's world to life."

The majority of Dorros's writing and illustrating has been for very young readers, but with his more ambitious novel, Under the Sun, he aims at young adult audiences. Set during the war in Bosnia, this story of a journey through violence and loss features a boy named Ehmet, whose Croatian mother dies after being attacked by several men in ethnic violence. Ehmet must find a place of safety, and he does so in a village where orphans can find refuge. Indeed, Dorros recently told CA: "The refuge in this story was inspired by a real village that a group of more than forty young people with a few adults helped rebuild." Susan P. Bloom, writing in Horn Book, concluded: "Dorros has written a compelling tale," while Kliatt writer Claire Rosser asserted that Under the Sun should serve as "a fine complement to Zlata's Diary," a nonfiction work also about the Bosnian war.

Dorros once told CA: "When I was four years old, I sat on the tail of an alligator—a live alligator, ten feet long. Later (when I was thirty years old) I remembered that experience and wrote a story about an alligator. I've always liked nature and adventures. Now I write and illustrate books about many subjects that fascinate me. As well as stories, I enjoy researching and doing science or nonfiction books. I think of a good writer as a detective with all senses alert, always on the lookout for clues that help put the whole story together.

"I have spent much of my time making books. Before that, I did many things: I was a carpenter, farm worker, teacher, photographer, and longshoreman. I love to travel, to see what is the same and what is different around the world. As a writer and illustrator, I have the opportunity to make books about what I find. For me, there is no more exciting work. I hope that you enjoy telling your own stories, too.

"I stopped drawing in the fifth grade, and mostly what I wrote was letters, until I started making books. Like many people, I had gotten discouraged about how good I was at drawing or writing. But now I've found what I can do by continuing to try. I believe you can achieve what you want, if you're willing to work at it, and have fun at the same time."



Booklist, January 15, 1994, Janice Del Negro, review of Radio Man/Don Radio; November 1, 1995, Annie Ayres, review of Isla, p. 476; December 1, 1995, Carolyn Phelan, review of Me and My Shadow, p. 632; February 1, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of A Tree Is Growing, p. 942; April 15, 2000, Connie Fletcher, review of Ten Go Tango, p. 1550; June 1, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Fungus That Ate My School, p. 1907; September 15, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Under the Sun; January 1, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of Julio's Magic, p. 868.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 1982, review of Pretzels; March, 1987, review of Ant Cities; January, 2005, review of Under the Sun.

Horn Book, May, 1991, review of Tonight Is Carnaval, p. 360; November-December, 1991, Mary M. Burns, review of Abuela, p. 726; March-April, 1996, Hanna B. Zeiger, review of Isla, p. 230; March, 2000, review of The Fungus that Ate My School, p. 183; March-April, 2003, Betty Carter, review of City Chicken, p. 202; January-February, 2005, Susan P. Bloom, review of Under the Sun, p. 93.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1981, review of Pretzels; August 15, 1990, p. 1167; December 15, 2001, review of When the Pigs Took Over, p. 1757; December 1, 2002, review of City Chicken, p. 1767; December 15, 2004, review of Julio's Magic, p. 1200.

Kliatt, September, 2004, Claire Rosser, review of Under the Sun, p. 8.

New York Times Book Review, December 8, 1991, Molly Ivins, review of Abuela, p. 26.

Oakland Press, Jeff Green, April 18, 1991, article on Arthur Dorros.

Publishers Weekly, July 19, 1991, review of Abuela, p. 55; October 9, 1995, review of Isla, p. 84; March 6, 2000, review of Ten Go Tango, p. 109; May 15, 2000, review of The Fungus that Ate My School, p. 117; December 17, 2001, review of When the Pigs Took Over, p. 90; November 25, 2002, review of City Chicken, p. 66.

School Library Journal, December, 1981, review of Pretzels, p. 74; August, 1987, Ellen Loughran, review of Ant Cities, pp. 66-67; May, 1990, Kate McClelland, review of Abuela, p. 96; October, 1991, Kate McClelland, review of Abuela, pp. 90-94; September, 1992, Mary Lou Budd, review of This Is My House, pp. 215-216; August, 1995, Rose Zertuche Trevino, review of Grandma, p. 166; September, 1995, Vanessa Elder, review of Isla, p. 168; April, 2000, Maryann H. Owen, review of The Fungus that Ate My School, p. 104; May, 2000, Rosalyn Pierini, review of Ten Go Tango, p. 140; December 17, 2001, review of When the Pigs Took Over, p. 90; February, 2002, Ann Welton, review of When the Pigs Took Over, p. 98; February, 2003, Carol Ann Wilson, review of City Chicken, p. 104; December, 2004, Alison Follos, review of Under the Sun, p. 144; January, 2005, Linda M. Kenton, review of Julio's Magic, p. 90.


Arthur Dorros Home Page, (November 21, 2002).

Scholastic, Inc., Web site, (August 30, 2006), brief biography on Arthur Dorros.


Arthur Dorros (publicity profile), Scholastic Inc., c. 1992.