Harriton High School junior Clara Zhu recently combined her love for art and science to write, illustrate and publish her first book, Food Poisoning – Your Favorite Foods Might Be Bacteria's Too. What began as a simple project for her Art 1 Honors class ultimately became the quaint and charming children's book now available for purchase on Amazon.
The seeds of the book were first planted during childhood as Clara would get her hands on some of the scientific accoutrement found around the house on account of her father, a professor of microbiology at The University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine.
"Growing up surrounded by science," recounted Clara, "I have played with enough Petri dishes and microscope slides to become enchanted by microbes, who seemed to be crying out to me to share their stories."
For Clara - an exceptional artist with an enthusiasm for science - the confluence of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the assignment of her Art 1 Honors "Pen & Book" project proved to be the perfect petri dish for the underlying ideas of Food Poisoning to grow.
"When the SARS-CoV-2 virus dominated the spotlight and COVID-19 became the center of everyone's lives, I thought that other disease-driven microbes should not be neglected, as some may cause serious complications."
"Also inspired by the Science Olympiad event Disease Detectives," continued Clara, "I decided to create a book about food-borne illness, which is caused by bacteria, viruses and other microbes. These germs are too small to be seen or smelled, but they have the power to do great harm when they contaminate our food and water."
The book reveals the secret world of several "bad bugs" that contaminate food and make people sick. The cute cartoon illustrations engage kids' imaginations and stir their scientific curiosity while also teaching readers how to prevent becoming sick.
"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in six Americans become sick from food-borne diseases each year," said Clara. "Although this book is by no means complete or comprehensive, I hope that through my illustrations of these cartooned microbes, children can become informed about how to protect themselves against these germs."