The Crayon Man by Natascha Biebow

By Megan Northcote

For many children, coloring with crayons is a simple activity that can bring endless hours of creative fun. And, who doesn’t love that fresh smell of a brand new box of crayons being opened? The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons tells the colorful story of the man behind the magic, Edwin Binney. In the early 1900s, teachers and children complained that there wasn’t a drawing implement that allowed color to stay on the page without making clunky lines or smudging. In walks Binney, an ambitious businessman-turned-scientist, who sees color everywhere! After spending countless hours experimenting in a lab, heating powdered pigments in molds, he finally stumbles upon the perfect recipe. And so the Crayola crayon is invented. 

This picture book biography is an excellent STEM story that showcases the trial and error process that many scientists experience on the path to a great invention. Sidebar insets on several of the pages offer historical context and scientific details that older readers can appreciate. A photo essay in the back of the book explores how 12 million Crayola crayons are produced in factories every day. But more to the point, this book is a perfect choice for any elementary-age student who’s ever held a crayon! 

For more great narrative nonfiction reads about inventors check out: 

Just Like Rube Goldberg by Sarah Aronson

The Boo-boos That Changed the World by Barry Wittenstein 

How to Build A Hug by Amy Guglielmo

Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science by Diane Stanley