Cloned mammoths, a transgenic silkworm that dreams of being Spider-Man and a gene-edited monkey with human-like hereditary diseases. These are a few of the imaginative creatures senior engineer at National Center of Animal Genome Research and PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology Bo Tang brings to life in his first science book for children.
The book, Finding Fantastic Animals, was published in Mandarin earlier this year and Bo Tang has already finished a draft for his second book, The Gene Stories Around Us, to be released at the end of 2018.
His main goal as a children’s author is to write science books for kids to stimulate their creativity and imaginations while remaining scientifically accurate. Time Out Family spoke to Bo Tang about the importance of being introduced to the wonders of science from an early age.
What is your first children's book Finding Fantastic Animals about?
Finding Fantastic Animals is my first popular science books for kids. In this book, my young, female protagonist Tang Xiaodi wants to create a theme park full of fantastic animals, so she journeys around the world with her parents during her summer break, visiting scientists in different countries who study bizarre animal species.
During her journey, Xiaodi and her parents meet many fantastic biotechnology animals, such as cloned mammoths, a transgenic silkworm that dreams of being Spider-Man, a transgenic rabbit that produces recombinant protein drugs, and a gene-edited monkey with human-like hereditary diseases, and so on. At the same time, the scientists, who created these fantastic biotechnology animals, tell Xiaodi how these animals are created and how they are helpful to human being’s health.
The book is very popular with children around me, including my daughter, which kindles my writing enthusiasm. Now I am writing my second science books for kids, The Gene Stories Around Us.
What is the plot of The Gene Stories Around Us?
I have finished the writing outline of this book after several discussions with my editor of China Juvenile and Children's Books Publishing House. We plan to publish the book at the end of the year. The gene stories around us will introduce children to some interesting questions about our genes, such as ‘Why are we like our parents?’, ‘How do the scientists uncover the secrets of our genomes?', 'How do transgenic human cells save some dying children’s lives?', and so on.
What made you decide to write science books for kids?
It’s due to my nine-year-old daughter. She really likes to read science books and magazines. One day a year ago, she was reading We Love Sciences, a leading science magazine for Chinese children, and she was deeply attracted by an article about the producing process of spider silk by genetically engineered bacteria. Then I thought that I could write some similar science stories for my daughter and other children because I am a biotechnology engineer.
How did your own childhood influence the books you write?
I spent my childhood in the countryside of Hunan province, which is one of the provinces in the central region of China and the birthplace of Mao Zedong. When I was a child, I often raised chickens and pigs and pastured cattle to help my parents. I also liked to catch fish and frogs in the river with my friends. I am familiar with these animals and love them, so I decided to write my first book about animals.
How can your books help children in China?
I hope that my book can help Chinese children to gain a deeper understanding of biotechnology and to stimulate their scientific interests and creative spirit.
What do you hope to achieve by writing science books for kids?
I hope to write more wonderful science books for kids, and I hope these books will be popular in China and other countries of the world. More importantly, I hope that the young generation in China becomes more creative, more imaginative, more innovative and more open to the world than my generation.
What would you recommend parents to do in order to strengthen their kids interest in science?
I think kids’ science interest should be strengthened step by step. For example, we can start by taking our kids to visit the Science and Technology Museum and observe which science field they are interested in. Then, we can buy or read science books to them and encourage them to take part in science lectures hosted by the community or other organizations and to communicate with the scientists face-to-face.