Masked Hero: How Wu Lien-teh Invented the Mask That Ended an Epidemic (Hardcover)

Masked Hero: How Wu Lien-teh Invented the Mask That Ended an Epidemic By Shan Woo Liu, Lisa Wee (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Shan Woo Liu, Lisa Wee (Illustrator)
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Meet Dr. Wu Lien-teh, defeater of the Manchurian plague—in a story authored by his great-granddaughter, an emergency physician who relied on his life-saving invention during a pandemic a century later.

More than a hundred years before Covid, a deadly pneumonic plague threatened to sweep through Northeast China. Medical experts were summoned to help contain it—among them Wu Lien-teh, who had overcome hurdles to be a doctor since his boyhood in Malaysia. Unlike others, Dr. Wu deduced the disease was spread through airborne bacteria and advocated for quarantines and other measures familiar to readers today, including the use of a face covering he designed from layers of cloth and gauze: the first version of the N95 mask.

Wu Lien-teh faced ridicule and discrimination, but his trailblazing methods prevailed: the 1910 Manchurian plague was vanquished in four months, and his invention continues to keep us safe now. Masked Hero, written by Dr. Wu Lien-teh’s great-granddaughter Shan Woo Liu and charmingly illustrated by Lisa Wee, celebrates the little-known history of the N95 mask and the hero who first devised it. Back matter, including an author’s note and a time line, sheds further light on the ever-relevant past, encouraging budding scientists to think bravely—and remember the small acts we all can perform to keep our communities safe.

About the Author

Shan Woo Liu is the great-granddaughter of Wu Lien-teh. She is an emergency medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. Masked Hero, her publishing debut, was inspired by her daughter Kaili’s first-grade project about Dr. Wu, written in early 2020. Both mother and daughter are proud to share the story of Dr. Wu and help children understand that heroes come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and races. Shan Woo Liu lives with her family in Massachusetts.

Lisa Wee was born and raised in Penang, Malaysia, the hometown of Dr. Wu Lien-teh. After first pursuing a career in nursing, she moved to Kenya to teach art. The opportunity to teach children from diverse backgrounds opened her eyes to the need for diversity and inclusivity in children’s books. The recipient of the Japan Illustrators’ Association 2020 Bronze Award, among other accolades, Lisa Wee lives in Singapore.

Praise For…

This smoothly written picture book—written byWu's great-granddaughter, an American doctor, and inspired by her daughter’s first-grade writingassignment—introduces a heroic researcher whose practical approach to disease preventionsaved many lives, notably during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Wee’s pleasing digital artillustrates the story within effective period settings. This picture-book biography showcases asignificant, lesser-known East Asian scientist/physician.

The mother and daughter co-authors, both descendants of their subject, trace the course of Wu’s career. . . . They deftly cast light on medical issues and the racism Wu faced, drawing parallels between past and present. . . . Chockablock with timely themes and connections to recent world-shaking events.
—Kirkus Reviews

Woo Liu’s great-grandfather, physician Wu Lien-teh (1879–1960), stars in a biography that focuses on its protagonist’s implementation of face masks to combat disease. . . When a 'terrible disease' sweeps through Northeast China, Lien-teh is asked to help. The gauze masks that the physician innovates end the outbreak, and later prove useful during the 1918 flu and as a prototype for Covid-combatting masks that 'became part of everyday life.'
—Publishers Weekly

Despite the discrimination and doubts Lien-teh faced, his perseverance and courage to invent an effective face mask has proven its worth to humanity, time and time again. . . ‘Masked Hero: How Wu Lien-teh Invented the Mask That Ended an Epidemic’ is a fascinating, inspirational story in every way.
—The Reading Eagle

Product Details
ISBN: 9781536228984
ISBN-10: 1536228982
Publisher: MIT Kids Press
Publication Date: October 10th, 2023
Pages: 32
Language: English