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Watercress



by
Andrea Wang
illustrated by
Jason Chin

Edition
Hardcover edition
Publisher
Holiday House
Imprint
Neal Porter Books
ISBN
9780823446247

Awards and Honors
2021 Boston Globe-Horn Book Picture Book Honoree
POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
None
$19.56   $16.30
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JLG Category

Primary Plus

Gathering watercress by the side of the road brings a girl closer to her family’s Chinese Heritage.

Driving through Ohio in an old Pontiac, a young girl’s parents stop suddenly when they spot watercress growing wild in a ditch by the side of the road. Grabbing an old paper bag and some rusty scissors, the whole family wades into the muck to collect as much of the muddy, snail covered watercress as they can.

At first, she’s embarrassed. Why can’t her family get food from the grocery store? But when her mother shares a story of her family’s time in China, the girl learns to appreciate the fresh food they foraged. Together, they make a new memory of watercress.

Andrea Wang tells a moving autobiographical story of a child of immigrants discovering and connecting with her heritage, illustrated by award winning author and artist Jason Chin, working in an entirely new style, inspired by Chinese painting techniques. An author’s note in the back shares Andrea’s childhood experience with her parents.Author’s note. Illustrator’s note. Full-color illustrations rendered in watercolor.

POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
None

Details

Format

Print

Page Count

32

Trim Size

8 4/5" x 11"

Dewey

E

AR

0: points 0

Genre

Nonfic

Scholastic Reading Counts

0

JLG Release

Jun 2021

Book Genres

Picture Book

Topics

Watercress. Harvesting. Chinese americans. Family life. Family heritage. Ohio. 

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Praise & Reviews

School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 3–Simple text and beautiful illustrations pack a strong emotional punch in this picture book. Based on the author’s own memories of being the child of Chinese immigrants in Ohio, the story follows a young girl who is in the car with her family. They spot watercress growing in a ditch and stop to collect it for their dinner later. The girl refuses to eat it, embarrassed of how they got their food, as well as their used furniture and clothes, believing that “Free is bad.” Her parents don’t understand her humiliation as she doesn’t understand their excitement over the meal. Words are used sparingly; the illustrations complete all that is left unsaid. The most poignant spread is when the girl’s mother tells them about their uncle and how there was never enough to eat. On one page, her little brother holds up his empty bowl; on the next, his seat is empty. Readers of various ages will want to discuss the layers of miscommunication between cultures and between generations, and how to be more mindful of others’ experiences. But the work is far more than a lesson. A tightly woven piece of story and watercolor art is exemplified in one spread, where the the cornfields of Ohio become the famine-stricken land of China. VERDICT A powerful story sure to awaken empathy and ­curiosity: Who else left behind a homeland, and at what cost?–Elissa Cooper, Helen Plum Memorial Lib., Lombard, IL

Horn Book

Transcending space and time, memories bring a Chinese American family together. A girl in cutoffs and a T-shirt is embarrassed when her parents stop the car to pick wild watercress growing by the side of the road; she doesn’t understand why her family has to be so different from everyone else. At dinner, she refuses to even taste the watercress. But when her mother shares the story of her family’s difficult past in China, the girl learns to view the food on her table with new appreciation and understanding. Together, the girl and her family make “a new memory of watercress,” ending the story on an optimistic note. Chin’s expressive watercolors create their own narratives to complement the different layers of Wang’s story. On one double-page spread, the illustration delivers devastating information only implied by the text. Another spread visually connects the family’s present and past: as readers’ eyes move from left to right across the gutter, they experience two completely different spaces and times—cornstalk morphs into bamboo, and the scene changes from Ohio to China, present to past. Chin’s smooth visual transition cleverly disturbs and dissolves the barrier created by the gutter and bridges the two worlds. Inspired by Wang’s own memories as the child of Chinese immigrants (as revealed in the closing author’s note), this quietly affecting book encourages honesty, communication, and sharing of family history. WEILEEN WANG

Praise & Reviews

School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 3–Simple text and beautiful illustrations pack a strong emotional punch in this picture book. Based on the author’s own memories of being the child of Chinese immigrants in Ohio, the story follows a young girl who is in the car with her family. They spot watercress growing in a ditch and stop to collect it for their dinner later. The girl refuses to eat it, embarrassed of how they got their food, as well as their used furniture and clothes, believing that “Free is bad.” Her parents don’t understand her humiliation as she doesn’t understand their excitement over the meal. Words are used sparingly; the illustrations complete all that is left unsaid. The most poignant spread is when the girl’s mother tells them about their uncle and how there was never enough to eat. On one page, her little brother holds up his empty bowl; on the next, his seat is empty. Readers of various ages will want to discuss the layers of miscommunication between cultures and between generations, and how to be more mindful of others’ experiences. But the work is far more than a lesson. A tightly woven piece of story and watercolor art is exemplified in one spread, where the the cornfields of Ohio become the famine-stricken land of China. VERDICT A powerful story sure to awaken empathy and ­curiosity: Who else left behind a homeland, and at what cost?–Elissa Cooper, Helen Plum Memorial Lib., Lombard, IL

Horn Book

Transcending space and time, memories bring a Chinese American family together. A girl in cutoffs and a T-shirt is embarrassed when her parents stop the car to pick wild watercress growing by the side of the road; she doesn’t understand why her family has to be so different from everyone else. At dinner, she refuses to even taste the watercress. But when her mother shares the story of her family’s difficult past in China, the girl learns to view the food on her table with new appreciation and understanding. Together, the girl and her family make “a new memory of watercress,” ending the story on an optimistic note. Chin’s expressive watercolors create their own narratives to complement the different layers of Wang’s story. On one double-page spread, the illustration delivers devastating information only implied by the text. Another spread visually connects the family’s present and past: as readers’ eyes move from left to right across the gutter, they experience two completely different spaces and times—cornstalk morphs into bamboo, and the scene changes from Ohio to China, present to past. Chin’s smooth visual transition cleverly disturbs and dissolves the barrier created by the gutter and bridges the two worlds. Inspired by Wang’s own memories as the child of Chinese immigrants (as revealed in the closing author’s note), this quietly affecting book encourages honesty, communication, and sharing of family history. WEILEEN WANG

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