Biebow, Natascha. The Crayon Man. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019.
Coloured oil pastel pencils were invented in 1834 by the Staedtler company. Coloured art pencils were invented in 1924 by Faber-Castell and Caran d’Ache. In between those two dates – in 1903 – coloured wax crayons were invented by Edwin Binney, a man who loved colour. Binney had already invented an inexpensive gray slate pencil and a white chalk pencil that wasn’t dusty. He’d invented a wax crayon, but it was black and he wanted colour. So he and a team experimented using ground up rocks and minerals. They tried adding clay and wax. They tried heating the mixtures and letting them slowly cool. Finally, they were ready with a box of eight: blue, brown, green, orange, red, violet, yellow, and – of course – black. Crayola crayons became famous!
Supplemented by a two-page illustrated step-by-step explanation of how crayons are still made in Pennsylvania, a one-page biography of additional information about Binney, and a bibliography for curious readers, this picture book is happily recommended for readers six to eleven years old.
P.S. As a source of information for students doing research to expand their general knowledge, this book is great. As a read-aloud for young children, it will still be interesting but the small boxes of additional information in a smaller font on six of the pages disrupt the flow of the story. I wish that the author had found a way to either include the information in the main text or put it in an appendix. I also wish the designer of the book had chosen a more cheerful font for the story. But otherwise, this is a wonderful biography to encourage readers to be curious about the everyday objects all around them.