Before Colors: Where Pigments and Dyes Come From

Abrams. Jun. 2023. 88p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781419757068.
Gr 3-7–A fascinating and vibrant introduction to the science and sociocultural impact of color. In this follow-up to Before Music, Pimentel and Safer delve into the history of dyes and pigments. Readers will learn about the science behind color—how we see and use it. Readers will learn about primary colors (not just red, blue, and yellow!) and which plant, animal, and mineral resources are used to create the dyes found on our clothing and other textiles. Each section is divided by the specific hue: Brown was most likely first created from burnt rocks; European paint makers used ground-up mummies to create mummy brown; and groups of people, such as Native American tribes, have used it to color leather, baskets, and fabric. Each section also highlights a “colorful character” who was known for using that particular color—Vincent van Gogh and his love of yellows or Mexican weaver Juana Gutiérrez Contreras, who created a long-lasting green dye, because green fabric often fades with time. Factoids are sprinkled throughout, including why money is green and how the production of some white hues caused many people to die from lead poisoning. This celebration of color is as vivid and elucidating as its subject. Safer’s illustrations add layers to Pimentel’s poetic text, and the design is impeccable. Back matter includes ways for kids to experiment with color and source notes.
VERDICT The perfect combination of art history and science, add this title to all nonfiction shelves and STEAM programming.

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