Reviewed by Ann Rubino
Adjunct, Lewis University College of Education
At first glance, the 32-page Day-Glo Brothers looks like an easy-reader with cute illustrations. But once you dip into it, you find a fast-paced biography of two brother scientists/inventors in a field we scarcely think of—paint chemistry. This book provides an interesting example of chemical engineering, a field that is rarely covered in trade books or biographies.
In the 1930s in Montana, a series of events prompted brothers with very different talents to discover and successfully market the now-familiar paints. Bob was a hard worker, aiming for a scientific career in medicine, when an injury left him with brain damage and kept him confined to dark surroundings for months. Joe was creative and “exerted himself a lot less than his older brother,” but he loved to design and perform magic tricks. When they noticed fluorescent-stained bottles in their father’s dark pharmacy storeroom, that unlikely combination of factors led them to experiment with the substances, at first to generate illusions and finally to develop a variety of paints.
Paint chemistry is not high on the list of required elementary curriculum topics, to be sure, but the topic lends itself nicely to a number of ideas for enrichment. There’s the “real-world” aspect—these colors were and are used in such varied settings as Navy rescue operations, warning buoys, crossing guard vests, construction site markings, and advertising. The phenomenon of fluorescence itself is touched upon and opens up inquiry as to how it works and various examples of it in nature and inventions. There’s a simple but fairly realistic account of the invention process itself, with the usual dead-end trials and ups and downs. The brothers' cooperation and persistence are highlighted—a nice example to point out. And of course some of their early work could be explored and perhaps replicated as science fair fodder.
The language/readability is appropriate for intermediate through middle school and is decidedly non-technical. Thus, Day-Glo Brothers could be a high-interest read for children with reading but not intelligence difficulties. As a high-interest reading supplement, or an attention-getting read-aloud early in an intermediate chemistry unit, this quirky book could definitely be useful.
Review posted on 6/29/2009