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Watercress
Author: Andrea Wang
Illustrator: Jason Chin
Published: March 30, 2021 by Neal Porter Books

Summary: 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.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection!

Ricki’s Review: This book took my breath away. A girl’s family stops by the side of the road, and she is embarrassed as they fill paper bags with muddy watercress and eat it for dinner. Her mother shares a story of her childhood and talks about a brother who has passed on. I will be recommending this book over and over again. The story is stunningly written and captures painful memories that are passed intergenerationally. The author writes that it is “both an apology and a love letter” to her parents. I imagine the story would make her parents very proud. There is a bond between the family that reaches off the pages and pulls readers into the story. I highly recommend this book.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might use this book to ask students to share moments that they were embarrassed about a family or friend situation. They might then add layers to that story–what do these stories tell? How do these stories reveal layers of their lives?

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the author write about emotion? What feelings does the narrator have, and how do these feelings change?
  • How are stories passed intergenerationally?
  • What does the narrator learn, and how does this knowledge change her?

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Read This If You Love: Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard; A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin; Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho

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**Thank you, Sara, from Holiday House and Pixel+Ink for sending a copy for review!**

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