Review of Watercress

Watercress
by Andrea Wang; illus. by Jason Chin
Primary    Porter/Holiday    32 pp.    g
3/21    978-0-8234-4624-7    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-5054-1    $11.99

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.

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Weileen Wang
You-Ling (Weileen) Wang loves to write, read, and illustrate. She attended Vanderbilt University, where she studied child development and fell in love with children's literature. She holds a master's degree in arts in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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