- Watercress by Andrea Wang
Trade ed. ISBN 9780823446247 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780823450541 $11.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* 5–9 yrs
A drive through the midwestern countryside is interrupted when a girl’s parents spy watercress growing alongside the road, and the whole family, including the girl and her brother, gets out of the car to collect it. For her parents, it’s a connection with their lost Chinese homeland, but for the girl, it’s standing in a cold, muddy ditch, scrabbling for gross inedibles (“I only want to eat vegetables from the grocery [End Page 319] store”). After her mother cooks up the watercress at home, she gives her children a glimpse of her sad past and the little brother whose fate she never mentions (“During the great famine . . . we ate anything we could find, but it was still not enough”). Wang’s text is direct and keenly observed, spare without being coy, and genuinely poetic in moments such as the conclusion: “Together, we eat it all and make a new memory of watercress.” Notes from the author and illustrator relate their own experience with immigrant family narratives. Chin’s textured watercolors evoke the bleaching sun of a corn-surrounded Ohio road, and perceptive compositions contrast the four-person table of the girl’s present with the four-person table of her mother’s youth—and silently depict that family around the table becoming only three. It’s a deft exploration of the information and emotion gap between parents, especially immigrant parents, and children, and it may give space for kids to learn more about their own family history and customs, perhaps in pairing with Lo’s Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic (BCCB 7/12).
[End Page 320]