Five College Consortium

Five College Center for East Asian Studies (FCCEAS)

Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean Book Group

Please join us for a National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA) online book group for K-6 teachers on Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean: Remembering Chinese Scientist Pu Zhelong's Work for Sustainable Farming by Sigrid Schmalzer. This picture book is suitable for both lower and upper elementary school students.

Administered by the Five College Center for East Asian Studies (FCCEAS), this book group will begin on April 18 and conclude on May 2. It is cosponsored by co-sponsored by the University of Massachusetts Amherst History Department's 2017-2018 K12 History Institute.

Participants will read the book, contribute to online discussions, and join a webinar with the author on Wednesday, May 2, 7-8pm EDT. Copies of the book will be provided to accepted teachers. Limit of 25 participants. Registration will close on Friday, April 6 or when the group is full. To register, go to

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 immerses 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.

The author, Sigrid Schmalzer, won the Joseph Levenson Post-1900 Book Prize for 2018 for her book Red Revolution, Green Revolution. This is the most prestigious prize for a book about Chinese history, and the book upon which Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean is based.


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