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Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean

Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean

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  • 9780884484042cover

Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean

Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean tells its story through the memories of a farm boy who, inspired by Pu Zhelong, became a scientist himself.

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Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean tells its story through the memories of a farm boy who, inspired by Pu Zhelong, became a scientist himself.

The narrator is a composite of people Pu Zhelong influenced in his work. With further context from Melanie Chan’s historically precise watercolors, this story will immerse young readers in Chinese culture, the natural history of insects, and the use of biological controls in farming. Backmatter provides context and background for this lovely, sophisticated picture book about nature, science, and Communist China.

“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.

This story told through the memories of a farm boy (a composite of people inspired by Pu Zhelong) will immerse young readers in Chinese culture, the natural history of insects, and sustainable agriculture. Backmatter provides historical context for this lovely, sophisticated picture book.

Color throughout

 

REVIEW – from School Library Journal

GR 3–5—The young narrator, a fictional composite, recalls how insect invasions seriously threatened essential rice and lychee harvests in rural 1960s–70s Guangdong, China. The narrator explains that farmers were relying on expensive pesticides, which made people sick and gradually became ineffective, to battle pests. The arrival of Pu Zhelong, a pioneering environmentalist trained in Minnesota, changed the locals’ approach. Working with farmers and students, barefoot, Zhelong advocated for natural-predator balance, and health and harvests improved. Clear, detailed text and drawings explain the use of parasitic wasps and silk-moth eggs for biological control; a lucid afterword connects readers to history (and acknowledges that pesticides are still widely used); and a brief bibliography provides additional value. Author and illustrator gracefully convey their expertise. Lyrical yet realistic line-and-color wash illustrations, dominated by rich greens, assure visual appeal. The clever scrapbook conceit might produce some confusion about the narrator’s age but allows for the introduction of a dozen decorative and instructive paper-cut Chinese characters. An endpage explains each. VERDICT Readers interested in environmental science and Chinese history, language, and culture will find an engaging and informative story here.

 

About the Author

SIGRID SCHMALZER, a professor of history at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst, MA), has lived in China, holds a doctorate in modern Chinese history and science studies, and is the author of Red Revolution, Green Revolution: Scientific Farming in Socialist China (2016) and the award-winning The People’s Peking Man: Popular Science and Human Identity in Twentieth-Century China (2008).

New mom MELANIE LINDEN CHAN, of Rhode Island, works in a variety of media?including watercolor, acrylic, and pen and ink?to create books for children that open their minds to other cultures and ways of life. Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean is among her first book-length projects.

Additional Information

Author

SIGRID SCHMALZER

Illustrator

MELANIE LINDEN CHAN

Format

Hardcover

ISBN

978-088448-404-2

Pages

40

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