Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Day-Glo Brothers

By Chris Barton
Publisher: Charlesbridge
ISBN 978-1-57091-673-1

FROM THE FLAP: An illuminating tale. Why did you pick up this book? Did it have something to do with the eye-popping colors on the cover?

You can thank Bob and Joe Switzer for those shocking greens, blazing oranges, and screaming yellows. The brothers invented a whole new kind of color, one that glowed with an extra-special intensity. It took them years of experimenting, but their efforts paid off brilliantly. Day-Glo colors helped win a war, save people’s lives, and brighten everyday life, including this book.

BIOLUMINESCENCE IN NATURE (Naturalist, Verbal/Linguistic)

The Switzer brothers developed fluorescent paints, but glow-in-the-dark sea animals, plants, and insects have been around much longer than Day-Glo paints. Ask students to write a paragraph about a fluorescent plant or animal. The first two links below have information for kids and the last one is a teacher’s guide about bioluminescent organisms.


Gather up different types of white fabric swatches such as silk, cotton, polyester, nylon, and satin. As a class, predict which fabric will best take the dye. Make sure that each group of student dyes the fabric for the same amount of time, otherwise you’ll have more than one variable. Give each group of students a bucket, dye and a fabric swatch. After the swatches dry, hang them up from lightest to darkest. Which fabric worked best?

POP ART (Visual/Spatial)

Andy Warhol used Day-Glo paints. Ask students to pick a famous cultural object or person and create a symmetrical portrayal of their chosen object or person. Students can fold their papers into halves, thirds, or fourths to demarcate each block of space. After students have drawn their symmetrical objects, give them Day-Glo paint for the finishing touches. Warhol’s Campbell Soup Cans, Marilyn Monroe, and Four Monkeys illustrate symmetry.

SWITZER BROTHER TIMELINES (Visual/Spatial, Logical/Mathematical)

Use the dates and facts in the book to create a Switzer Brother Timeline. This is a fun and easy way to summarize the information in the book.

THE CAN-CAN DANCE (Bodily/Kinesthetic, Interpersonal)

A theater bought Day-Glo costumes that made their chorus girls look like dancing skeletons. Break the class into groups of five or six and ask them to do the Can-Can dance. Start off by asking each group to do it for a minute. Then, increase the time in one minute intervals to see which group can keep up the aerobic activity for the longest amount of time.

Book Buddies:

-Andy Warhol by Mike Venezia
-Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women- Inventors by Glenn Murphy
-So You Want To Be An Inventor? By Judith St. George
-Stopping Bullets with a Thread: Stephanie Kwolek and Her Incredible Invention (Genius at Work! Great Inventor Biographies) by Edwin Brit Wyckoff
-TV’s Forgotten Hero: The Story of Philo Farnsworth (Trailblazer Biographies) by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson


  1. This is a great book, so I'm glad to see you feature it. I really like your activity ideas. I was wondering, though, what kind of dye you recommend for the fabric swatch activity?

  2. Hi Melissa,

    I've had good luck with RIT dye which can be found at craft stores such as Michaels and A.C. Moore.