Book Review: The Crayon Man

Title: The Crayon Man The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons

Written by: Natascha Biebow

Illustrated by: Steven Salerno

Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Crayon Man

An ingenious narrative non-fiction book about Edwin Binney the inventor of Crayola Crayons. This book examines the history of children’s writing implements and the inspiration behind creating something children could write and draw with that did not smudge or rub off and was perfect for producing coloured pictures.

Aimed at children between the ages of 6 and nine years old, the text has a fun chatty tone ideal for reading aloud with the added bonus of a more fact based information box added to the lower left corner of some of the spreads.  In the story, Natascha recalls how Edwin Binney experimented with different ideas to create his top secret formula –  emphasising a trial and error methodology where he learnt from his mistakes. She also reveals how they came up with the new word ‘Crayola’ to name the crayons.

The illustrations by Steven Salerno are bold and colourful. I like the way they contrast to emphasise the colour of the outside world compared to the carbon factories where black printing inks and shoe polish are made. Through his illustrations Steven gives us a real sense of how the introduction of colour transformed education and learning.

I believe this book would be enjoyed by older children who like biographies and also younger aged children with adult support, so could be used in the classroom, or for home schooling, for both KS1 and KS2, as the book supports science, in that they are discovering how Edwin Binney developed a useful new material and it encourages children to think about the properties of materials that make them suitable or unsuitable for particular purposes as well as any unusual and creative uses for these materials. It supports design technology and the history national curriculum in that they are learning how a key inventor has  helped shape the world and could also be used to inspire children’s creative art work.

At the back of the book Natascha has listed some of the names given to each colour. this could be used to stimulate children to invent their own imaginative names for each colour. There are also step-by-step photographic instructions on how crayons are produced from the transporting the paraffin wax to being packaged and shopped to stores. This could be used as a sequencing activity in the classroom. The additional single page biography of Edwin Binney could be used to encourage children to research and write their own biographies of a significant person who has made an inventive contribution to society. i particularly like the inclusion of a selected bibliography listing research resources suitable for children to find out more information that includes books, interviews, articles, websites and videos.

All in all The Crayon Man The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons is a well-crafted book that is informative and educational is a fun and inspiring way.

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