As much as I’ve made about the daylight-fluorescence aspect of The Day-Glo Brothers, the sibling relationship between Bob and Joe Switzer — night and day opposites, in many respects — is central to the story as well.
In looking around for other children’s and young-adult nonfiction about notable sets of siblings from previous eras of American history, I’ve been surprised by how few are represented. (Where are the Marx Brothers? Frank and Jesse James? Donny and Marie?) For some additional context about sisters and brothers, I’ve assembled a list of my favorite titles. There are undoubtedly other worthy books that I’ve overlooked and would do well to add in updates to this post — I’d love to hear your suggestions.
Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire
by Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
If you’re not sold on Footwork by the time you get to young Fred and his older sister in costume as a dancing lobster and champagne glass, then you’re harder to please than even the most jaded vaudeville crowd. But take notice: The Astaires eventually won them over, too.
Good Brother, Bad Brother: The Story of Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth
by James Cross Giblin
Until April 14, 1865, Edwin was more famous than younger brother and fellow actor John Wilkes. But the story offered by Giblin is more complex than that, with “good” Edwin’s earlier career nearly undone by his drinking, “bad” John Wilkes’ heroic feats on stage (34 performances in 18 roles during one four-week engagement), and the brothers’ own awareness that their affection could not survive even a discussion of their political differences.
Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers
by Jean Fritz
G. P. Putnam’s Sons
In one of the most famous American families of the mid-19th century, the girls were not allowed to follow their father into the ministry, and the boys were not allowed not to. Fritz winningly relates how, with her history-changing Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet proved herself the best sermonizer of the lot.
Sisters Against Slavery: A Story About Sarah and Angelina Grimké
by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson, illustrated by Karen Ritz
The Grimkés didn’t just transform themselves from slaveowning Southern belles into abolitionist Quakers — they went further, pushing against the prejudices within their adopted faith and the 19th-century restrictions on women speaking out in public about anything.
The Two Brothers
by William Jaspersohn, illustrated by Michael A. Donato
The Vermont Folklife Center
In this absolute gem based on a true story, Jaspersohn and Donato tell of the heartrending separation in the 1880s of Prussian brothers Heinrich and Friedrich Eurich, followed by their coincidental, goosebump-inducing reunion along a fenceline between two Vermont farms.
To Fly: The Story of the Wright Brothers
by Wendie C. Old, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker
If there’s a shortage of books about other notable siblings, there’s a surplus of titles about Orville and Wilbur Wright. But there’s always room for the likes of this contribution by Old and Parker — accessible, insightful, and soaring.
Up Close: Robert F. Kennedy, Crusader
by Marc Aronson
Aronson embraces both fact and speculation in his engrossing, eye-opening account of an ill-fated life entwined with those of older brothers Joe and Jack.