Mario and the Hole in the Sky
Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How A Chemist Saved Our Planet By Elizabeth Rusch, Illustrated by Teresa Martínez (2019) – hardcover

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Recommended ages: 4 to 10
Reading Level: Lexile 730L | Fountas & Pinnell R

Mario and the Hole in the Sky tells the true story of Mario Molina, a Mexican American, Nobel-prize winning chemist that helped saved our planet from environmental catastrophe. Mario’s story is the perfect backdrop for a children’s book! Born and raised in Mexico City, he was gifted with a microscope on his eighth birthday. His parents, along with his chemist aunt, nourished and fostered his scientific curiosity. He attended schools around the world to hone in on his skills as a chemist. The story then describes in great detail the work that led Mario to discover that we, as a planet, were destroying the ozone layer with our excessive use of CFCs (harmful chemicals used in spray cans and refrigerators). His work earned him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and he became the first Mexican-born citizen to receive said prize.

The subject matter is certainly dense, but it serves as a wonderful teaching tool for parents and educators. Rusch provides an excellent teaching guide for the book through her website: https://www.elizabethrusch.com/mario-and-the-hole-in-the-sky

I must mention the gourgeous illustrations by Teresa Martínez! Her lively and emotive depictions breathe life into every single page. There is so much detail and fun imagery that is sure to engage your young reader.

The fabulous bonus content in this book is absolutely unparalleled. It includes:

  • an epilogue detailing Mario’s current work and advocacy for ending climate change
  • a chart describing the similarities between the ozone depletion threat that Mario helped fix and the current threat of climate change
  • additional reading resources
  • actionable steps that we all can take to combat climate change
  • an author’s note detailing her research process for the book

I am in awe of the amount of research performed by author Elizabeth Rusch. She was even lucky enough to have interviewed Mario Molina, providing her with wonderful anecdotes and direct quotations that she included throughout the book. It goes without saying that this would make Mario and the Hole in the Sky an absolute must-have STEM addition to any children’s libray! We will cherish this book for years to come.

Take-away message: There are so many in this gem of a book! For one, it teaches children that you don’t become an expert in something overnight. Mario started conducting experiments at age eight and then went through years of schooling before be became an award-winning chemist. The book also provides a grander message of hope. Mario’s work and advocacy saved the planet from environmental catastrophe. It really can be done. And, unfortunately, this gargantuan task is required once again as our planet faces the destructive forces of climate change, as outlined in the book’s epilogue.

TAGS: Mexican, Latinx, male lead, Notable POC, STEM, Spanish edition, hardcover 

The Spanish edition, Mario y el agujero en el cielo: Cómo un químico salvó nuestro planeta, is available for purchase in our MiJa Books Shop!
Mario y el agujero en el cielo

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