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

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

Celebrating the inventor of the Crayola crayon! This picture book biography tells the story of Edwin Binney, the inventor of one of the world's most beloved stationary supplies. purple mountains’ majesty, mauvelous, jungle green, razzmatazz… What child doesn't love to hold a crayon in their hands?  But children didn't always have such magical boxes of crayons. Here’s the t...

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Title:The Crayon Man: the True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons
Author:Natascha Biebow
Rating:
Edition Language:English

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

  • Becky

    First sentence: Once there was a man who saw color everywhere.

    Premise/plot: The Crayon Man is a picture book biography of Edward Binney the creator of crayons.

    My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved this one. The narrative is well written. It's packed with information--which I loved. Plenty of information is included within the sidebars. But at its heart it remains an entertaining story.

    First sentence: Once there was a man who saw color everywhere.

    Premise/plot: The Crayon Man is a picture book biography of Edward Binney the creator of crayons.

    My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved this one. The narrative is well written. It's packed with information--which I loved. Plenty of information is included within the sidebars. But at its heart it remains an entertaining story.

    Edwin's wife was a former school teacher. She told him that children needed better, cheaper crayons. So he set about inventing something that would work.

    The illustrations are fabulous.

    Text: 5 out of 5

    Illustrations: 5 out of 5

    Total: 10 out of 10

  • Holly

    I love this COLORFUL story about the inventor of Crayola crayons! Makes me appreciate them and want to go color a picture. The back matter is excellent too: photos (color, of course) showing the process of making Crayola crayons today, and a selected bibliography.

  • Linda

    Edward Binney and his staff get the prize for giving children crayons, safer than the older, not useful or safe, artist's crayons. In those early days, paper was too expensive so children wrote with a gray pencil, on slate tablets. They worked but rubbed off too easily. Natascha Biebow tells the story starting with the 'need' for crayons of the colors of the world so children could draw them. Binney's wife knew about this. She was a teacher. And Biebow takes the reader through pages of persisten

    Edward Binney and his staff get the prize for giving children crayons, safer than the older, not useful or safe, artist's crayons. In those early days, paper was too expensive so children wrote with a gray pencil, on slate tablets. They worked but rubbed off too easily. Natascha Biebow tells the story starting with the 'need' for crayons of the colors of the world so children could draw them. Binney's wife knew about this. She was a teacher. And Biebow takes the reader through pages of persistence, experimentation, and finally, the celebrated result, CRAYOLA CRAYONS! Within the book, boldface type shows up in the names of the colors throughout the story. Steven Salerno's illustrations themselves are filled with action, from a "lightbulb' above Binney's head to him and his staff working hard to find just the right mix of wax, clay, and pigment - whew! Each night they headed home covered with color! They wanted to get this invention just right, and they finally did.

    Biebow includes a bibliography with both primary and secondary sources, interviews with Binney’s great-granddaughter, plus additions in text boxes throughout the book that offer additional informational snippets such as the composition of Crayola’s pigments. There is a wonderful author's note telling how much Edward Binney and his partner, Harold Smith gave back to the community and a page that shares real factory pictures of how crayons are made today.

  • Wendy Garland

    This is a tale of color, innovation, and persistence. Edwin Binney wanted to bring effective and inexpensive color into the world for children and his invention has been used by generations of children. Backmatter includes scenes from the Crayola factory showing how crayons are made today.

  • Klaudia Janek

    I love this book! I think I was drawn in by the colorful cover, but also because my life is filled with crayons because of my kids. I actually did not know the Crayola story, so I really learned a lot from this beautiful picture book. I did not know that Edwin Binney was the inventor of Crayola crayons. Readers will be taken on his journey of discovery and how crayons came to be. There are actually a lot of scientific facts in this story. For example, readers will learn (in a sidebar) that “grou

    I love this book! I think I was drawn in by the colorful cover, but also because my life is filled with crayons because of my kids. I actually did not know the Crayola story, so I really learned a lot from this beautiful picture book. I did not know that Edwin Binney was the inventor of Crayola crayons. Readers will be taken on his journey of discovery and how crayons came to be. There are actually a lot of scientific facts in this story. For example, readers will learn (in a sidebar) that “ground-up rocks and minerals made bright pigments for colors: red iron oxide (hematite) for red, yellow iron oxide (deothite) for yellow, carbon for black…” Then in the story text the story of the name is told. The author wrote that “let’s mix the French word craie for stick of chalk, and the world ola from the word oleaginous, meaning oily like the oily texture of the crayon wax, to invent a new word CraieOla...Crayola. Edwin listened.” The crayons were introduced at the 1904 World Fair and were a huge success. Readers will also get to see picture of crayons being produced today. The author notes at the end are worth reading. The illustrator did a great job bring the story to life. The illustrations seem to be done in crayon and are happy, bright and the character expressions help to tell the story.

    : This book is a good example of a non-fiction picture book. It can tie into American history or to visual arts. The story makes for a good read aloud, but the side notes are better for independent or guided reading. It would look great on a display and garner a lot of reader attention. If there was a special event, a great tie in would be to give away boxes of Crayola Crayons. Readers would love it. There is a lot of attention paid to the names of all the different colors, that could be turned into a library activity. If you are in an IB school, readers can discuss how Edward Binney was a risk-taker and knowledgeable. It also fits in really well to a few MYP Global Contexts, namely scientific and technical innovation and personal and cultural expression. This book is a great purchase for a school library.

  • Betsy

    Someone once pointed out to me that a good 30% of my reviews start out with me saying, in one form or another, something along the lines of “I didn’t think I’d like this book but then I read it blah blah blah amazing blah blah blah original blah blah blah go read it.” And the jury finds me . . . guilty as charged. See, writing original reviews can be tricky so it’s easy for a reviewer to fall into some old established (read: brainless) methods of putting words to a page. I mean, it’s not like it

    Someone once pointed out to me that a good 30% of my reviews start out with me saying, in one form or another, something along the lines of “I didn’t think I’d like this book but then I read it blah blah blah amazing blah blah blah original blah blah blah go read it.” And the jury finds me . . . guilty as charged. See, writing original reviews can be tricky so it’s easy for a reviewer to fall into some old established (read: brainless) methods of putting words to a page. I mean, it’s not like it’s untrue when I write that stuff. I really didn’t think I’d like the book in question, but even so, do you know what I never care to examine in those reviews? Whether or not my inexperience with the subject matter has given a rosy-colored tint to the book itself. Would I be as gaga about it if I hadn’t walked in with lowered expectations? It’s not the kind of thing that’s easy to ascertain. Naturally, all of this brings us to

    by Natascha Biebow and Steven Salerno. Here we have yet another book that I viewed initially with distain. I mean, a picture book biography of the man who invented Crayola? Doesn’t that just make this book essentially a 40-page advertisement for a product? As per usual I read it, loved it, and started proselytizing it to anyone in my immediate vicinity. Lowered expectations aside, though, is it actually any good? Let’s take into account the writing, the subject matter, the art, and the accuracy. A nonfiction picture book biography is only as good as the sum of its parts. And these parts? Good to the last drop.

    Running a company that specializes in the color black would seem to be an unlikely beginning for the future creator of Crayola crayons, but that’s how Edwin Binney started out. His company sold the carbon black pigment that got used in everything from shoe polish to rubber car tires. An inventor at heart, Binney listened when his wife, a former schoolteacher, told him that the world needed better, cheaper crayons. After much trial and error, experimentation and failure, and moments of inspiration, Binney had it down. Not by himself. Not alone. But with the help of others along the way who, together, made the world a little more colorful.

    Right from the start I liked what Biebow was laying down here. She knows how to use repetition to keep the reader interested. She places little text boxes of facts in the margins for those readers that would like to learn more. This is perfect for readers of different age levels (and interests too!). Then, in the text itself, not even the art, Biebow lists Binney's prior accomplishments. The gray slate pencil, the white chalk, and the black crayon (that wasn’t really for kids). She doesn’t shy away from the chemistry that went into making this new iteration of crayons. I also couldn’t help but love that Biebow drills home the idea that Binney’s genius came not from his own cranium, but because he listened to other people’s advice. This is particularly true of his wife. The book makes a point to repeat that Binney listened to her, whether she was telling him that kids needed better crayons in the first place or when she personally came up with the name Crayola from the French word for stick (“craie”) and “ola” from the work “oleaginous”.

    Okay, but let’s get back to a concern I had walking into this book. Is it, in fact, a walking advertisement for Crayola? Putting aside the fact that Crayola’s pretty much the only name brand crayon a person can think of off the top of their heads, there’s no denying that the book paints Binney in a pretty sunny light. Yet there’s also no getting around the fact that here we have a man dedicated to making something fun for kids. There’s a lot to be said for writing a biography about a product that children have not only heard of but also taken for granted. Crayons are so ubiquitous to the childhood of a number of American children that this might actually be a book they take an interest in. Finally, consider the cover. Think about how easy it could have been to take the word “Crayola” and make it bigger, bolder, and more prominent. Instead, it’s squirreled away in the subtitle without so much as a different colored font. The focus here is on the man, not the company, for the most part.

    So impressed was I by Biebow’s skills at the nonfiction picture book bio form that I skipped on ahead to her biographical bookflap to see what else she’d done. You can imagine my surprise when I found that this book is, in fact, her nonfiction debut. Apparently she just knows how to knock ‘em out of the park on a first go-round. Honestly, when I’m reading other biographies and hitting things like fake dialogue, false histories, made up characters, etc. I kind of want to grab this book and hand it to those other authors saying, “Look! Look! You don’t have to rely on any of that garbage. You can make a book fun, and interesting, and accurate without all of that! See?” Because it isn’t just the writing of the book itself that wins a person over. It’s the backmatter. For a woman who grew up watching the episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood where they see how crayons get made, the full-color photographic section “How Crayola Crayons Are Made Today” just hit all my buttons. Then you get a full page of additional info on Binney himself. And then finally you get the motherload. A Selected Bibliography that separates itself out into Primary Sources (subdivided into “Print” and “Interviews & Correspondence”) and Secondary Sources (subdivided into “Books & Articles”, “Websites”, and “Videos”). And yes, that old Mister Rogers video? It’s there in the Bibliography. Wonder of wonder, miracles of miracles.

    Selecting Steven Salerno to do the art in this book was an inspired choice. Salerno’s not unfamiliar with picture book biographies, having worked on titles like

    and

    . His is a difficult artistic style to describe. It is, above all, distinctive. Would you like to know the difference between a good picture book biography and a really good picture book biography? The difference is in the details. Take the opening of this book. Biebow writes about a man who loved color, but ran a company that worked almost exclusively in the medium of black. Seeing an opportunity, Salerno takes this opening and works hard to make that contrast palpable. Standing amidst reds, blues, yellows, purples, blues, and greens is an Edwin Binney with a happy upturned mustache. Turn the page and the colors are muted considerably, overwhelmed by the soot and dark colors of the factory. Binney stands in the same position, but his mustache has drooped considerably. That mustache, by the way, should get a supporting role nomination alongside his eyebrows. The two facial hairpieces work in tandem to clarify the man’s moods, confusion, and thought process.

    If I could change anything about the art, I might try to give it a greater range of ethnicities. It is entirely possibly that Binney employed an all-white workforce. That said, just because you’ve placed your book in the past, that doesn’t mean you can’t work in a diverse array of people in other places. For example, for the section on the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, I couldn’t help but notice that the throngs of people were all white. Not the case in real life and unnecessary here, I’m afraid. There are other little moments that like that could have given the book a depth it lacks in this area. A missed opportunity to give this book a little actual color.

    Some wag will probably say (if they haven’t already) that it seems strange that a picture book biography of Edwin Binney isn’t illustrated in the medium of crayons. An interesting point, I’m sure. Would a crayon-illustrated version of Binney’s life be better for its reliance on his preferred form? Or would it just be a kind of unnecessary gimmick? Only one way to find out. Clearly there need to be more books on Binney out there. But since the likelihood of any of them being quite as good as this one is slim, I’m happy to stick with Biebow and Salerno’s creation in the meantime. It’s just the ideal combination of great writing without cheating. It’s filled with facts and backmatter, but also makes the subject interesting to kids. It’s beautiful to look at and while I would have made some changes, it stands as a pretty darn good look at a man, a plan, a crayon. Crayola.

    On shelves now.

  • Maria Caplin

    Perseverance, creativity and problem solving. Excellent sidebar notes and word study about the origin of crayons 🖍

  • Connie T.

    Imagine you love nature and all the colors of the world. Now imagine you're an inventor but all day long you're surrounded by black: black dust, black tar, black ink.... What do you do? Well, if your name is Edwin Binney you invent crayons!

    This colorful, engaging book describes the history and the chemistry which led to the development of Crayola crayons while also being accessible to young readers. A 2-page photo spread showing modern day crayon manufacturing at the Crayola factory, a brief bio

    Imagine you love nature and all the colors of the world. Now imagine you're an inventor but all day long you're surrounded by black: black dust, black tar, black ink.... What do you do? Well, if your name is Edwin Binney you invent crayons!

    This colorful, engaging book describes the history and the chemistry which led to the development of Crayola crayons while also being accessible to young readers. A 2-page photo spread showing modern day crayon manufacturing at the Crayola factory, a brief biopic of Edwin Binney, and a selected bibliography complete this picture book.

    There's something about a new box of crayons that inspires creativity. This book produces a similar call to action and has me reaching for a sheet of paper and some of my favorite colors.

  • Rebecca

    Of course, this book immediately made me remember the infamous Mister Rogers video about how crayons are made.

    It also gave me a sudden sense memory of opening a new box of crayons. Their smell and their sharp points! This is a fun picture-book biography of Edwin Binney, who invented the first child-friendly and mass-producible crayons we still know as Crayola. I loved the details about how he listened to his wife's advice (which was always good advice) a

    Of course, this book immediately made me remember the infamous Mister Rogers video about how crayons are made.

    It also gave me a sudden sense memory of opening a new box of crayons. Their smell and their sharp points! This is a fun picture-book biography of Edwin Binney, who invented the first child-friendly and mass-producible crayons we still know as Crayola. I loved the details about how he listened to his wife's advice (which was always good advice) and tried different approaches with the help of a team.

    Backmatter is impressive: a set of step-by-step photos from the Crayola factory in Easton, PA; a short bio of Edwin Binney; and a selected bibliography *with primary and secondary sources* AND the very Mister Rogers video I was remembering!!

    Colorful, expressive llustrations by Steven Salerno are "done in charcoal crayon, gouache, and digital color."

  • Alicia

    What's not to love about learning how the original Crayola crayon was invented? Who would have thought it was such a crazy thing based on what kinds of materials kids had to draw with before and then figuring out the science behind creating the perfect artistic utensil with bright, vivid coloring to let our imaginations fly. And that's exactly was Edwin Binney did-- let his imagination fly in the factory as he perfected the technique, coming home every day drenched in color, and with the ingenio

    What's not to love about learning how the original Crayola crayon was invented? Who would have thought it was such a crazy thing based on what kinds of materials kids had to draw with before and then figuring out the science behind creating the perfect artistic utensil with bright, vivid coloring to let our imaginations fly. And that's exactly was Edwin Binney did-- let his imagination fly in the factory as he perfected the technique, coming home every day drenched in color, and with the ingenious naming by his wife of a combination of two French words, created "Crayola".

    The world is our oyster and this picture book biography demonstrates that. He was such a fun guy, it seems!

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