Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean

img-7634_origTitle:  Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean; Remembering Chinese Scientist Pu Zhelong’s Work for Sustainable Farming

Written by: Sigrid Schmalzer

Illustrated by: Melanie Linden Chan

Tilbury House Publishers, 2018

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes/topics: farming, Chinese culture, science, entomology

The first time I saw a scientist in my village was also the first time I saw a wasp hatch from a moth’s egg. In that moment, I could not have said which was the more unexpected – or the more miraculous.

Brief synopsis (from
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.
Fountas & Pinnell Level U

Activities and Resources:

  • Interview farmers or gardeners about pests and their solutions.
  • Research: Generate a list of insect “pests.” What are their natural enemies? How can we create a natural solution?
  • Write to persuade: Would you choose to use pesticides or natural methods to get rid of an insect pest. Convince your audience that your choice is the better one.
  • HERE is a teaching activity on aphids and ladybugs.
  • HERE is a ladybug / aphid game.

Why I like this book:
Narrated by a young farm boy, the telling is gentle, lyrical, and informative. The higher level details of what happens when the farmers use pesticides and the scientific process of “growing” predators to control the “pests” are presented in a child-friendly way. The diagrams are soft, clear, and inviting and allow young readers to thoroughly understand the process. The cultural aspect of tradition meeting modern science is another interesting layer. I like the point made that the role of science is to serve the people. In the end, the narrator starts down the path of science and finds his own innovations, providing an excellent example for kids.
The beautifully detailed illustrations immerse the reader in the culture and make this a thoroughly accessible text with valuable science for today’s world.

You can see another recommendation HERE from Vivian Kirkfield.

Learn about the author’s experience with editor and illustrator HERE.

Visit author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books for a plethora of picture books listed by title and topic/theme, each with teacher/parent activities and resources.

6 thoughts on “Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean

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