MOTH AND WASP, SOIL AND OCEAN: REMEMBERING CHINESE SCIENTIST PU ZHELONG’S WORK FOR SUSTAINABLE FARMING, By Sisgrid Schmalzer and Melanie Linden Chan, Tilbury House Publishers, Feb. 6, 2018, Hardcover, $17.95 (6-9)
Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean is a fascinating picture book that will appeal to adults as well as children.
The book tells follows the research of Pu Zhelong, a Chinese scientist, through the eyes of a farm boy. The farm boy/narrator is a composite of people Pu Zhelong influenced.
“The first time I saw a scientist in my village was also the first time I saw a wasp hatch out of a moth’s egg,” writes the narrator of this picture book about Chinese scientist Pu Zhelong. “In that moment I could not have said which was the more unexpected―or the more miraculous.”
In the early 1960s, while Rachel Carson was writing and defending Silent Spring in the U.S., Pu Zhelong was teaching peasants in Mao Zedong’s Communist China how to forgo pesticides and instead use parasitic wasps to control the moths that were decimating crops and contributing to China’s widespread famine. —Synopsis provided by Tilbury House Publishers
We spent last summer battling paper wasps. They were making nests in every nook and cranny they could find. My daughter got stung multiple times while playing at her grandparents. The insects were a menace. Never in a million years did I think wasps could be useful. Then I read Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean. I was entertained and educated by the book.
Author Sigrid Schmalzer — winner of the Joseph Levenson Post-1900 Book Prize for 2018 for her book Red Revolution, Green Revolution — knows her subject well and that’s apparent. Her strength, however, is her ability to make this topic accessible for young readers. While Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean is not overly technical, Schmalzer doesn’t shy away from solid information.
Illustrator Melanie Chan builds on Schmalzer’s text, providing context and making scientific process easier to understand. Chan’s watercolor illustrations transport readers to China, exposing them to a culture that is utterly foreign to many.
Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean is a lovely look at how humans both help and harm the environment.