When I saw The Story of Silk: From Worm Spit to Woven Scarves by Richard Sobol (Traveling Photographer) in a list of nonfiction picture book titles nominated for the Cybils recently, I knew I had to pick it up. I reviewed Sobol’s The Mysteries of Angkor Wat last year and I loved his style. Even better, I have raised silkworms several times as a science project for kids, so I knew this book would be high interest.
It did not disappoint. Sobol traveled to Thailand to document their process of raising silkworms and weaving cloth. The book is filled with his full color photographs and interviews. Sobol is wonderful at making the story about people and particularly the local children. Children are going to be amazed to learn that the girls of the village wear silk dresses. They also have a not so glamorous job to help with silk production. The young girls must pick any caterpillar droppings off the cocoons before they are processed (Sobol uses a more explicit word – poop).
A silkworm cocoon
The photographs in the book of the white caterpillars munching on bright green mulberry leaves kept in a large round bamboo basket was fascinating. We kept out caterpillars in plastic bins, but I bet a bamboo basket would build up less moisture.
We never boiled the cocoons to make silk, so had not seen that part of the process. I’m sure children will love the “ick” factor when they find out that people eat the boiled silkworm pupae once the cocoons have been processed. It is good to know that the pupae are not wasted.
The Story of Silk is perfect to accompany a history lesson about the Silk Road or a geography lesson about Asia. It also would be great for a science lesson about insects accompanied by some live silkworms.
Silkworm life stages:
Silkworm caterpillar spitting silk
The silkworm cocoon is above. The caterpillar spins the silk cocoon and then turns into a pupa inside.
Male silkworm moth
The Silkworm Story: A Thread through History at Growing With Science
Reading level: Ages 6 and up
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (September 25, 2012)
Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.