Ta-Da! The winner of the 2009 Cybils award for nonfiction picture book is The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tony Persiani! (If you are interested in children’s and young adult books, you might want to see the Cybils winners in all the categories.)
The Day-Glo Brothers is about the Switzer brothers, Bob and Joe. Both boys were fascinated by science, probably due to the fact their father was a pharmacist, but Bob wanted to be a doctor and Joe wanted to entertain people. When Bob had a bad accident that kept him confined to home, his brother Joe entertained him by playing around with an ultraviolet lamp (also called a black light) that he had made from instructions out of Popular Science magazine. Joe had a magic show and he was interested in fluorescent paints to develop a new magic trick. After finding commercial uses for fluorescent paints that would shine under ultraviolet light, the brothers continued to experiment until they found a paint that would glow in regular daylight. They had created the “eye-popping” Day-Glo colors found today in products as diverse as highlighters and traffic cones.
One of the great characteristics of this book is the retro-look illustrations that use Day-Glo colors for emphasis. As explained in the back, these colors release an extra amount of light, which makes them glow. Using the colors in the illustrations in contrast to gray tones was a touch of genius.
Another important aspect of The Day-Glo Brothers is the fact that it is a story that hasn’t been written before. Both this book and Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, written by Phillip Hoose, are about people who have been overlooked in the past, but whose stories deserve to be told. Both have gotten recognition and awards. Hopefully the popularity of these books will be noted and we will begin to see more like them. Perhaps instead of yet another book about the Wright Brothers for example, there might be room for one about the lesser-known but highly-interesting aviator/inventor Glen Curtiss.
Finally, this book is a fascinating glimpse at science and the process of invention. The brothers had an good idea of what they wanted to create and kept at it. They also had a lucky accident, which brought together the elements they needed for success. On top of that, the timing of the discovery coincided with an event (the coming of World War II) when there was a great need for their products. Luck, timing and perseverance led to a successful result.
In a similar way, author Chris Barton has brought together all the elements needed to make The Day-Glo Brothers an award-winning book. Congratulations!
For related science activities, try experiments with things that glow at Growing With Science.
Shirley at Simply Science blog reviewed this treasure back in August.
Thank you very much to the adults and children who worked with me on the Cybils project. You all made this a wonderful experience, and I appreciate your time and talents.
Disclosure: As a round II Cybils judge, I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.