Watercress cover
Watercress by Andrea Wang. Illustrated by Jason Chin

By Andrea Wang
Illustrated by Jason Chin
Neal Porter Books / Holiday House, 2021
32 pages

Ages 5-8

When a girl’s parents spot watercress growing at the side of an Ohio road, they pull over the family car and show her and her brother how to gather it. Wading through cold and muddy ditch water, the girl ducks when a car passes, hoping it’s no one she knows. That night watercress “glistening with garlicky oil and freckled with sesame seeds” is served for dinner, but she refuses to eat it, wishing for grocery story vegetables. Her mother, who doesn’t often speak about her life in China, talks about her own little brother, and how they ate anything available during the famine, but he still didn’t survive. Thinking of the uncle she never knew, the girl takes “a bite of the watercress and it bites me back with its spicy, peppery taste.” Exceptional writing combines keen descriptions with an understated tone as it connects this Chinese American family’s past and present, with the earlier tragedy providing a path to compassion and understanding that extends to their current lives for the young narrator. The watercolor illustrations capture the emotions of individual characters and collective family tension, while clearly delineating their current lives in the United States from her mother’s childhood in China. ©2021 Cooperative Children’s Book Center