Time to replace pesticides with wasps

Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean by Sigri Schmalzer takes us back to the 1960s when scientist Pu Zhelong was teaching farmers in China to give up pesticides and replace them with parasitic wasps. And Sigri knows a lot about this because she lived in China and got her doctorate in Chinese history and science.

While this is a children’s book, with beautiful illustrations by Melanie Linden Chan, every one of us will learn interesting things. Without question, Zhelong was a pioneering environmentalist. Sadly, too many of us are still using pesticides.

This story is told through the memories of a farm boy, and includes Chinese culture, histories of insects, and even the global effort to develop sustainable agriculture.

I loved the little girl explaining to the little boy that “Stinkbugs look like beetles and smell like farts. I don’t know what they taste like because I never wanted to eat one.” Good for her!

At one point, Professor Zhelong offers his students a poem that I loved: “By day watch swallows on the wing, In evening listen to frogs sing, while graceful webs the spiders string.”

Once again, Tilbury House has published a remarkable children’s book. The boy, now an adult, ends the book with this important statement: “The problems of pesticides and other chemicals are worse than ever – in China and around the world. But there are many people working on solutions. I am proud to carry on Pu Zhelong’s work, bringing together soil and ocean – the Chinese countryside and the great sea of knowledge.”

A hopeful ending to a great book.