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THE CRAYON MAN by Natascha Biebow


The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons

by Natascha Biebow ; illustrated by Steven Salerno

Pub Date: March 12th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-328-86684-4
Publisher: HMH Books

Through persistent experimentation Edward Binney gave children a cheap and safe coloring medium.

In this chatty, engaging picture book, Biebow provides the historical context around the invention of Crayola crayons. The story covers the media predecessors (breakable, often poisonous artists’ crayons; clay) that were the basis for the Crayola and the trial-and-error process Binney undertook to create a safe, colorful product that children from diverse economic backgrounds could afford. Such visual cues as boldface type for the names of colors throughout the story aid readers in recognizing the colors that Binney developed and that they might encounter in their own crayon boxes. Biebow moves past the invention to recognize the impact this product has had on childhood worldwide. Salerno brings readers close to the story through his illustrations, right onto the lab table where Binney and his team (both impressively mustachioed men and women, all white) developed the crayon. What Jon Klassen achieves emotionally in his characters’ eyes, Salerno manages with eyebrows here. He uses crayon pencils for the bulk of the work; children's pictures in a couple of later spreads are done, appropriately enough, with Crayolas. A well-organized bibliography with both primary and secondary sources, including interviews with Binney’s great-granddaughter, is supplemented by text boxes throughout the book that offer additional informational snippets such as the composition of Crayola’s pigments.

A suitably colorful introduction to the life of a person whose name readers may not know but whose invention they all use.

(factory snapshots, author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)