Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Crayon Man

The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons  
by Natascha Biebow
illustrated by Steven Salerno
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019
Grades K-6

The Crayon Man is a high interest, picture book biography that details the invention of Crayola Crayons by Edwin Binney. Using both expository and narrative writing styles, Biebow transports readers to the turn of the 19th century when children wrote with chalk. After inventing a black wax crayon, Binney was encouraged by his wife, Alice, to create a crayon that was colorful, non-toxic and was designed not to crumble.

Children with an interest in science will be keen on the pages showing how Binney experimented with different minerals to make a variety of pigments for the new colorful crayons. The bold illustrations capture the excitement of experimenting and invention while also giving readers a glimpse into life in the early 1900s. Biebow highlights the partnership between Edwin and Alice as they worked together to create Crayola Crayons. Harold Smith, Edwin's cousin and business partner, also gets credit for marketing and selling the crayons. The back matter is quite impressive and includes a list of primary sources, a page containing more information about Edwin Binney and a two-page spread using photos and captions to show the process of making crayons.

The Crayon Man is a recommended purchase for public libraries, school libraries and elementary classrooms. It would make an excellent read aloud in a STEM program or class.

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