Everyone knows the story of the invention of the airplane, the telephone and the light bulb. But there are a million little things around us that we never even notice which didn’t exist until somebody thought them up. Take Day-Glo colors. We see them every day on Blaze Orange traffic cones and hunter’s caps, Signal Green sticky notes, and Saturn Yellow highlighter markers. But did you ever stop to think why some pinks look rosy while others are actually hot?
Like most people, author Chris Barton didn’t give Day-Glo colors a second glance until he happened to read an obituary of Robert Switzer, who with his brother Joe turned an interest in magical illusions into an industry — and along the way created hues Nature never dreamed of. The Day-Glo Brothers tells about Joe’s fascination with ultraviolet lamps, which he wanted to use to make objects in his magic shows glow in the dark. Poking around in their father’s drugstore, they found chemicals which they used to create the first fluorescent paint. Then Bob got the idea to make glow-in-the-dark ink for store signs and billboards. It was an accident that some of the paint they developed also glowed in the light. World War II made the brothers rich selling glowing paint for buoys, signal flags and safety jackets. Psychedelic posters and bright green tennis balls came later.
The Day-Glo Brothers is a picture book aimed that younger kids will easily follow. The illustrations by Tony Persiani naturally make generous use of the glowing colors. And publisher Charlesbridge has a web page with links to an animated explanation of how Day-Glo works, interviews with the author, and the original obituary that started Barton on the project. There’s also a teacher’s guide with activities — but the best activity is to give your kids a black light at your local hardware store and let them see what might glow.
The Day-Glo Brothers, by Chris Barton with illustrations by Tony Persiani, retails for $18.95 but can easily be found for less (or, like me, you can borrow it from the library).
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