Sunday, February 28, 2010
The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas & Brand-New Colors
Author: Chris Barton
Illustrator: Tony Persiani
Publisher: Charlesbridge (2009)
Ages: Grades 2nd to 5th
Chris Barton’s words and Tony Persiani’s sketches bring to vivid life the story Bob and Joe Switzer. You may be wondering who are the Switzer brothers and why should I care?
“You can thank Bob and Joe Switzer for those shocking greens, blazing oranges, and screaming yellows. The brothers invented a whole new kind of color – one that glowed with an extra-special intensity. It took them years of experimenting, but their efforts paid off brilliantly. Day-Glo colors helped win a war, save people’s lives, and brighten everyday life – including this book.” (Taken from the inside flap of the book)
In an effort to increase my awareness of all the great non-fiction picture books out there, I decided to start with reading the ALA Robert F. Sibert Medal winner and honor books. Though Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream is a wonderful book, my personal favorite is one of the Sibert Honor Books which I have decided to review here.
The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors is eye-catching. Neon orange, green, and yellow colors jump off of the glossy black cover begging to be read. And read I did. Bob and Joe were born just prior to World War I. During the 1930’s, Joe (the younger brother) began playing with color and spotlights as part of his magic act. At this time, Bob who had planned to become a doctor suffered a serious injury which ended his professional dreams. With Bob recuperating at home, and Joe researching his ideas on fluorescence, a partnership was ignited. The remainder of the story follows the brothers through several decades and many attempts to perfect “Day-Glo” colors. The book also tells the reader the various ways that Day-Glo colors have been instrumental in daily life.
Non-fiction picture books can be a challenge. How do you present accurate information in a fun manner that won’t make the reader think that he or she is reading the encyclopedia? Do you use photographs, paintings, sketches to illustrate the work? Barton and Persiani have found a wonderful balance in The Day-Glo Brothers. The story reads well and has a wonderful balance between fact and humor. Persiani’s illustrations have a vintage cartoon quality to them which fit well with the era of the book and the topic. Additionally, the book begins with primarily shades of white, black, and gray with touches of fluorescent highlights. In following along with the discoveries made by the brothers, the neon colors grow in intensity and size until at one point the two page picture spread pops completely with the rich fluorescent colors.
If you are looking to expand your picture book collection to include non-fiction picture books, I would highly recommend this as part of your personal library. Also, from experience, I also know that children love this book and enjoy the illustrations as the story is being read aloud in class.
Hope your students enjoy this as much as mine did!