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Mario and the Hole in the Sky

Rusch, Elizabeth. Teresa Martinez, illustrator. Carlos E. Calvo, Spanish Translation. Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet/Mario y el agujero en el cielo: Cómo un químico salvó nuestro planeta. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2019.

Children's Picture Book

This picture book, with delightful illustrations by Teresa Martínez, tells the story of Mario Molina (born 1943), a Mexican chemist who, with his colleague F. Sherwood Rowland, discovered that CFC’s (chlorofluorocarbons) were destroying earth’s ozone layer.

The story begins with Mario’s 8th birthday, when he receives a microscope as a gift from his parents. Mario discovers all the living organisms in a dirty drop of water. This begins his early obsession and lifelong dedication to chemistry. For Mario, “chemistry had a mysterious power—a power that was changing the world around him. Stores were full of NEW AND IMPROVED PRODUCTS featuring REMARKABLE NEW INGREDIENTS that promised to be CHEAPER, BETTER, and EASIER.”

But Mario then discovers that many of these new products contain CFC’s that are doing quick and catastrophic damage to the ozone layer. What Mario and his partner do next, despite enormous challenges, wins them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

This is a good book for learning the back story behind a significant environmental achievement, a tale that begins with a young boy’s fascination with what you can see under a microscope. Teresa Martínez’s illustrations are wonderful, featuring big and expressive eyes and chalk-like drawings that whimsically depict chemistry formulas in the minds of Mario and his colleagues. They bring chemistry to life.

Quick note: while researching the illustrator, I discovered an online course taught by Martínez in which she provides a step by step process for drawing characters for children's books. It is available through Domestika for $12.00 and makes for a good activity during this time of home isolation.

Review by Valerie Martínez, Director History and Literary Arts, NHCC.

Available in the NHCC Library Pic Bk QD22. M665 R87 2019

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