Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

EconKids Home New Picture Books in 2009 (First Word Q-Z) The Day-Glo Brothers / by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tony Persiani

The Day-Glo Brothers / by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tony Persiani


Title: The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors
Author:  Chris Barton
Illustrator:  Tony Persiani
Publisher:  Charlesbridge
ISBN:  978-1-57091-673-1
Year:  2009

Concepts: innovation, invention, entrepreneurs, producers and consumers

Review: Brothers Robert and Joseph Switzer, inventors of fluorescent paints commonly known as Day-Glo, did not plan to become inventors as they grew up.  Bob wanted to become a doctor while Joe had an avid interest in magic. When a serious accident left Bob recuperating from a head injury in their darkened basement while Joe was thinking about how fluorescence could add excitement to his magic acts, the young men started experimenting in the dark with ultraviolet light and chemicals that emitted a glow. 

Once they realized that they could use certain chemicals to make glow-in-the-dark paints and sell them for posters and store-window displays, Bob and Joe’s idea took off.  They worked hard for years to refine their paints and contribute to a host of extremely useful applications, including fabric panels, buoys, and fluorescent suits used to save lives during World War II; as well as numerous products commonly used today, including traffic cones, life vests, magic markers, hula hoops, street signs, and golf balls.  

Based on primary sources that include interviews with Bob and Joe Switzer’s family members, this carefully-researched book provides a fascinating profile of a material we take for granted and the men who created it. The illustrations, which start in grey-tone and progressively incorporate a range of fluorescent yellow, green, and orange colors, make a striking contribution to the story. This unique book certainly adds a dazzling dimension to our understanding of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Review by:  Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

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