Tuesday, February 25, 2014

PB 14:14 Day 12: CONFLICT with "The Day-Glo Brothers"

Another day with awesome author, Chris Barton, and his wonderful biography of the Switzer brothers. Character + Conflict = Plot. I had a hard time choosing. Anyway, let's see what light I can shed on craft with today's book. Aren't mentor texts simply amazing?!

TitleThe Day-Glo Brothers
Author: Chris Barton
Illustrator: Tony Persiani
Publisher: Charlesbridge
Year: 2009
Words: 2084

The first thing I notice is that this book has over 1000 words, even over 2000 words! See?! It can still be done, though I'll admit it is very rare. But this story needed that many words to tell it well. The funny thing is that it reads rather quickly, despite its length. I hope you all included your word counts with your books, too!

Today's lesson is on CONFLICT.

Conflict #1: This book begins with the simple conflict. "Even if they'd wanted to, the ancient Egyptians couldn't have painted their pyramids a green that glowed in the desert sun." And the Statue of Liberty couldn't have been painted a bright fluorescent orange either. Nope. Even Bob and Joe Switzer couldn't paint their house sunshine yellow in 1920. Those colors didn't exist then.

Conflict #2: "A long drought brought hard times to Montana, so in 1931 the family moved to Berkeley."

Conflict #3: Joe wished he could make his magic tricks better.

Conflict #4: One day at work, in 1933, Joe climbed into a car full of ketchup bottles, and fell twelve feet and hit his head. He had to spend several months in a dark basement trying to heal.

Conflict #5: They created glow-in-the dark paints, kind of. Fluorescent, actually. But the sun was a bigger problem. The effect was impossible to see during daylight.

Conflict #6: In 1935, Bob discovered that some silk fabric soaked in solution was glowing bright out in the daylight. They had to figure out how this happened. It was a curious mystery, but they were determined to figure it out.

Conflict #7: In 1936, they moved to Cleveland and sold the colors for posters. "But they also kept chasing after better colors and new ideas, each brother in his own way. Bob was a morning person, and Joe liked the night." Joe liked to say, "If just one experiment out of a thousand succeeds, then you're ahead of the game."

Conflict #8: They lived through the Great Depression. Bob cut up his wife's wedding dress for his experiments.

Conflict #9: "By accident Joe and Bob had invented a totally new color." Now they had to look for new ways that this color could be used. WWII helped. Signals, panels, flags, buoys, suits, and more.

Conflict #10: "After the war Bob and Joe's colors made them rich."

Ending: Growing up, they wanted different things. One wanted to be a doctor and save lives. The other wanted to dazzle crowds through magic shows. "With Day-Glo, they did both."

Remember, there's not much of a plot if our characters don't encounter conflict. I challenge you to take a PB you like that you feel has lots of conflict, maybe even this one, and type it out. It's a very enlightening practice, no matter which Story Element you're studying. See you tomorrow! And until then, keep on keepin' on...

Links go here. Duh.


  1. I love finding out things like this and always have since I was very small. Challenge accepted to go boldly and study the elements. :) thank you

  2. I loved this book. The wordcount is due to the fact that this is a nonfiction book. We are told that nonfiction can go up to 2000 words because of the delivery of factual information to children. I always enjoy looking at nonfiction books with awesome illustrations. This is indeed a great book. Thanks for sharing it. :D

  3. Cecelia, Yes, go boldly. I think I'll accept my own challenge.

    Jackie, I'd never heard that before. That nonfiction PBs are "allowed" to be longer. I guess my NF is right on target being "only" at 930 words.

  4. Yes, I've heard NF can be longer, but usually 1200-1300. The one I reviewed yesterday was a whopping 2,759 (targeted at level 5.1)! But it read well and read quickly.
    TODAY, my little book (graded at level 1.1 by Accelerated Reader site) is 180 words.
    BOTH are effective for their age target.
    Enjoyed this review Christie. Love the idea of 'conflict listing.' Thanks!

  5. Thank you for the attention you gave The Day-Glo Brothers, Christie. Would you believe that the version of the manuscript that I originally submitted -- when I was clueless as could be about picture book lengths -- had over 6,000 words? For what it's worth, the three picture book biographies I've got coming out in 2015 and 2016 -- while still long by most standards -- are considerably shorter than the text for Day-Glo. I'm glad I got away with it.


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