Thursday, December 3, 2009

REVIEW: The Day-Glo Brothers

Barton, C.  (2009).  The Day-Glo Brothers:  The true story of Bob and Joe Switzer's bright ideas and brand-new colors.  Watertown, MA:  Charlesbridge.


30-Second Plot Summary:  This picturebook biography shares the story of the Switzer brothers, Joe and Bob, who out of boredom and the hope to improve a magic act worked to create the day-glo paint colors we enjoy today.

As one could hope for, this biography makes use of the bright colors the Switzer brothers developed.  I had to squint when I turned to the endpages and saw that they were highlighter-worthy yellow and green.

The author, Barton, has a lot of fun with language throughout the picturebook.  The Switzers had "bright ideas."  Their tale is "illuminating."  Very fun.

I also liked the illustrations, which are mainly done in black and white with "highlighting" touches of day-glo colors.  I especially liked that the illustrator, Tony Persiani, had the illustrations be almost solely in grey-scale until the brothers developed the day-glo colors.  So it goes from "this" to "this."  It was a nice touch that reinforced the change.  And the illustrations are still cartoonish and fun enough that a child won't lose interest as they wait for the bright colors to be introduced.


Since this is a picturebook biography, The Day-Glo Brothers can be used to help young readers (or young listeners to read-a-louders) to better grasp historical time and the way that technology changes.  It can be mind blowing, the moment a child realizes TV, cell phones, certain colors didn't ALWAYS exist.

This is also a good book to use to help students distinguish the scientific method, the science of colors and most notably the vibrant *squint inducing* day-glos.  A teacher can ask students where they've seen the colors shown (although the book does give some good examples of the uses of day-glos).  A teacher could also encourage students to come up with their own names for the colors, like "owzers-it-hurts-my-eyes-orange" or "the-sun-ain't-got-nothing-on-me-yellow."  Students could also develop projects of their own ideas for inventions.

Since these colors are always associated with highlighters, a teacher could share The Day-Glo Brothers and then transition to discussing good study skills and note-taking using techniques like highlighting (keeping in mind different techniques will work for different students, of course).

Another route would be to focus on the fact that Bob and Joe were very much ordinary Joes (Haha!  See what I did there?  I bet you did).  They had hopes, that didn't always work out.  They weren't trained scientists, but they still managed--through hard work (of course) to make a BRIGHT scientific achievement.

Quotes of Note:

"Even if they'd wanted to, the ancient Egyptians couldn't have painted their pyramids a green that glowed in the desert sun.  Back in 2600 BCE, there was no such color."

"...It was the Switzer brothers themselves who would soon bring those eye-popping yellows, oranges, and greens into the world.  It would just take a few bright ideas."

"They brought home lots of books from the library and began learning how to use different chemicals to make glow-in-the-dark paints.  In regular light they looked plain, but under the ultraviolet light they radiated bright, attention-getting colors."

"But one day in May 1935, while Joe was away drumming up more business, Bob made a curious discovery.  He had dipped some silk fabric samples in a boiling combination of alcohol and fluorescent dye.  Then he hung the samples in the backyard to see whether sunlight would fade this latest concoction.
A little while later Bob was in the front yard when something caught his eye.  Even at that distance--and in ordinary daylight--he could see that the fabric in the backyard was glowing."

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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