Nonfiction Monday: The Day-Glo Brothers - Chris Barton

The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors

by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tony Persiani

Ages 4-8

48 pages

Charlesbridge, July 2009

I've been waiting and waiting for my public library to buy a copy of this book so I could review it!  I so wanted to include it in my Mock Caldecott.  I should have just shelled out the bucks and bought a copy for myself.  It's a fantastic book and full of quirky details.

From Amazon:
Joe and Bob Switzer were very different brothers. Bob was a studious planner who wanted to grow up to be a doctor. Joe dreamed of making his fortune in show business and loved magic tricks and problem-solving. When an accident left Bob recovering in a darkened basement, the brothers began experimenting with ultraviolet light and fluorescent paints. Together they invented a whole new kind of color, one that glows with an extra-special intensity: Day-Glo.
What I liked best about this biography is the very human fallibility of brothers Joe and Bob.  Neither are perfect, but they complement one another well.  Their story speaks to the importance of working together to make things happen, which is not something kids ordinarily learn from a biography.  Most famous heroes are portrayed as being the best or the smartest or the hardest working.  These guys were none of  those things.  They were ordinary people who had a good idea and were curious to see what would happen with it.  Plenty of their ideas failed, and that's cool too.  Kids need more opportunities to fail.

The science is first rate and would be great to replicate in a controlled environment, but I wonder how much of it was dangerous.  I don't think making a fluorescent sponge cake is a good idea.

Ivy chose this one two nights in a row for bedtime reading.  She loved the stunt plane and the glowing flowers.  She also noted how they got older in the pictures as the book went on: "Look, here's Bob and he's a little older than the last Bob!"  Last night I didn't edit any text and she fell asleep on the last page.

Winner of the 2010 Cybil Awards for best nonfiction picture book; also a 2010 Sibert Honor winner.

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