Most of The Day-Glo Brothers takes place in the 1930s, when Bob and Joe Switzer began experimenting with inks and paints that glowed under black light while moving ever closer to their discovery of daylight fluorescence.
For some additional context about that era, I’ve assembled a list of some of my favorite picture books set (at least partially) during the 1930s. There are undoubtedly some worthy subjects and titles that I’ve overlooked and would do well to add in updates to this post — I’d love to hear your suggestions.
Aliens Are Coming! The True Account of the 1938 War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast
by Meghan McCarthy
Alfred A. Knopf
McCarthy revisits Orson Welles’ famously panic-inducing radio play by combining a smattering of the original script, a matter-of-fact description of the aftermath (“One man thought he saw a Martian spaceship”), and illustrations that offer the old-fashioned kick of cheesy sci-fi.
Amelia Earhart: The Legend of the Lost Aviator
by Shelley Tanaka, illustrated by David Craig
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Tanaka’s stirring account of the aviator’s daring and determination awakened my own, long-dormant childhood fascination with Earhart.
Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman
by Marc Tyler Nobleman, illustrated by Ross MacDonald
Alfred A. Knopf
Nobleman and MacDonald make a dynamic duo in their depiction of how mild-mannered teens Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster parlayed the strength of their imaginations into an enduring hero.
Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa
by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children
Hip feline “Scat Cat Monroe” takes readers on a stylish, jazzy tour through Fitzgerald’s rise from big-dreaming Yonkers girl to unforgettable First Lady of Song.
by Elizabeth Mann, illustrated by Alan Witschonke
Mann’s Wonders of the World books are wonders in their own right. Her words and Witschonke’s art pay as much tribute and attention to the underappreciated workers as they do to the feat of engineering that tamed the Colorado River.
Seabiscuit Vs. War Admiral: The Greatest Horse Race in History
by Kat Shehata, illustrated by Jo McElwee
Angel Bea Publishing
The story of the 1938 contest runs on two tracks — a ticker-tape version in the staccato stylings of a stadium announcer, and another in the warm prose of an author who knows how to unfold the winning tale of an unlikely champion.
Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building
by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by James E. Ransome
Schwartz & Wade Books
A boy with a newly unemployed father watches the rise of the New York City landmark — from the 50-foot toss of a red-hot rivet to the finished tower’s glow against Manhattan’s nighttime sky — with wonder and inspiration. Readers will, too.
That Book Woman
by Heather Henson, illustrated by David Small
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Henson and Small depict a pack-horse librarian’s impact on a farm family, told through the skeptical eye and mountain vernacular of a non-reading boy named Cal.
Woody Guthrie: Poet of the People
by Bonnie Christensen
Alfred A. Knopf
With a generous dose of Guthrie’s own lyrics, Christensen shows how the singer and activist came to give voice to Americans in need through “This Land Is Your Land” and a thousand other songs.