Thursday, May 19, 2011

Happy Birthday Arthur Dorros - May 19

Happy Birthday Arthur Dorros - May 19

My experience learning foreign languages has been unproductive. I took three years of French in high school. I can only remember random French words like pantalon (pants) and s'il vous plait (please). In college, I took 6 credit hours of Spanish.  I think my children know more Spanish than I do from watching Dora the Explorer and Diego.  I wish I would have retained more. If anything, I could impress my children by saying cool things like "Donde esta el bano? -- Where is the bathroom? (Note: I had to use Google Translate).   Additionally, retaining more from that 8 A.M. Spanish Class, that I must have slept though, would have certainly helped me this week as I read books to my children by Arthur Dorros that included many Spanish words.

Arthur Dorros learned to speak Spanish while traveling and living for a short time in Latin America. In addition to teaching himself Spanish he also taught himself other skills like carpentry, agricultural work, teaching, longshoreman work, photography, and children's book writing and illustrating.  He decided to become a children's book author around the age of 30 because he thought, "it would be fun to put all those interests together and make children's picture books." ( In an interview with Good Conversations he described how teaching himself to write children's books was a "struggle" and it was something he spent a lot of time trying to "figure out". The variety of experiences in his life have taught him that, "You can get good at it if you try."

While reading Arthur Dorros's biography on his website, I found another interesting statement, "Part of writing is much like being a detective with senses as alert as possible, always on the lookout for new ideas and pieces to put the whole story together." I thought it would be fun for my children to explore their five senses like a detective. The best place I could think of to try a little sensory-detective-work was at a bakery. I knew for sure there would be something they could see, hear, touch, smell, and taste during an afternoon visit.

My daughter picked a beautiful tulip cookie for her treat.
My son picked a tasty daisy cookie for his treat.
Even the little guy got to enjoy a little tiramisu.
I made a simple graphic organizer to guide my children through examining all their senses at the bakery. On the sheet of paper I listed each of the five senses next to a box where they could record their observations.  We saw lots of treats like pies, cakes of many colors, and cookies.  We heard music coming from the baking room.  There was the smell of daddy's coffee.  My son touched lots of crumbly crumbs.  And of course, we tasted our yummy cookies.  Also, on the activity sheet I included a box to write down the Spanish translation for our observations.  We were excited to learn the word "cookie" in Spanish is "la galleta"which we later encountered that evening when we read Mama and Me by Arthur Dorros .  (The activity sheet we used is available for download by clicking here.)

We enjoyed our visit and our treats. 
While my daughter was finishing up her activity sheet I asked my son to draw the bakery on the back of the paper.  When he was finished he showed me his drawing and told me that it was a "Robber!" I said, "That would make for an awesome story -- a robber coming into a bakery."  On the way home my son was talking on and on about this imaginary robber that came into the bakery.  When we got home my daughter showed me that she had sculpted his words into a story while he was talking:

The Robbery
There is a robber in the bakery.
He stole a cake.
The cake was pretty.
So he tried the cake, but he did not like the cake.
So, he did not eat it.
The End

My pronunciation of Spanish words improved throughout the week as we enjoyed many books by Arthur Dorros including Papa and Me, Mama and Me, and Abuela, which was named by the New York Public Library as one of the "100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know".  Our favorite book was Numero Uno which Arthur Dorros wrote along with his son Alex Dorros.  The video interview below from Book Lust, describes their experience working together to make the book which was originally conceived by Alex as school project in the sixth grade!  In all of these books I appreciated the context clues that helped me understand the meaning of the Spanish words.  My first instinct was to look for a glossary when I came across a Spanish word but I quickly learned it was unnecessary.

You might also want to check out books by Arthur Dorros that are not bilingual including many books about science. His most popular would be Ant Cities, a Reading Rainbow selection. I enjoyed reading Me and My Shadow which includes many activities to explore shadows like drawing shadows, exploring eclipses with flashlights, and shadow puppet shows!


1. Arthur Dorros Official Website - Plus a book activity page!
2. Arthur Dorros Biography - Scholastic, Autobiography from his website
3. Text Interview - RIF,
4. Abuela Lesson Ideas - SCORE
5. Alex Dorros Official Website

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