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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.

32 pages, Hardcover

First published March 30, 2021

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About the author

Andrea Wang

15 books147 followers
Andrea Wang is the award-winning author of Watercress (Caldecott Medal, Newbery Honor, APALA Award, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, JLG Gold Standard Selection, seven starred reviews), The Nian Monster (APALA Honor), Magic Ramen (Freeman Book Award Honor). Her debut middle grade novel, The Many Meanings of Meilan, was reviewed by the New York Times, has two starred reviews, and is also a JLG Gold Standard Selection. Her work explores culture, creative thinking, and identity. She is also the author of seven nonfiction titles for the library and school market. Andrea holds an M.S. in Environmental Science and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for Young People. She lives in the Denver area with her family.

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5 stars
2,803 (64%)
4 stars
1,196 (27%)
3 stars
302 (6%)
2 stars
52 (1%)
1 star
15 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,046 reviews
Profile Image for Debbie W..
761 reviews569 followers
March 13, 2022
Author Andrea Wang shares childhood memories of shame and anger which eventually turn to empathy, compassion, and pride in her family's culture and history in this heartfelt picture book. The delicate watercolor illustrations heighten the poignant message about understanding.

This book would make a lovely read-aloud for 8 to 10-year-old children.

As a teacher, I would also recommend this book to showcase various reading strategies such as inference, word accuracy and vocabulary expansion.

Once again, thank you, Darla, for the wonderful recommendation!
Profile Image for Darla.
3,513 reviews618 followers
January 28, 2022
This book is racking up the awards this week: Caldecott 2022 Winner, Asian/American Award for Literature in the picture book category, and a Newbery 2022 Honor award. I had just checked a copy out of my library, so I opened it up today to see what it was all about. Definitely one I would have picked to be honored for both narrative and illustrations. This is a story that is deeply personal for Andrea Wang and we are all blessed by the sharing of it. Jason Chin's watercolor illustrations strike just the right note and bring her memories to life. Simply gorgeous in every way.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.5k followers
December 3, 2021
With the suspension of the Goodreads Choice 2021 Picture Book category, I was of mixed feelings; first, my family yearly rates all the nominees, but we had in recent years been less impressed with the nominees (which Rod Brown found were often published by Amazon subsidiaries). So I consulted a couple sources for likely Caldecott Award nominees, and I asked a few people to read them with me; in general they are so much better than, for instance, last year’s GR bunch. As my kids get older, they have mostly dropped out of the reading, but I still have anywhere from 2-4 readers with me this year.

#9 is “Watercress,” by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Jason Chin, the story of Wang’s being initially embarrassed to stop with her parents to find watercress at the side of the road. Why can’t we just buy it from the store? We look poor! Then her parents tell her of their own poverty while growing up, and the value of knowing where food comes from..

R (retired librarian): (4.5 stars). Good story. History. Illustrations are fitting.

T (electrician): (5 stars). I loved this. Sweet. Sad. Good illustrations.

Dave (teacher) (4.5 stars). Inspiring story from Wang’s life, beautiful art from Jason Chin, and I am so much a fan, each illustration thoughtful, lovely, with lots of reflective space on every page. About the power of memory, family, food.
Profile Image for Trish.
2,017 reviews3,436 followers
February 14, 2023
That was a quite wonderful little story about two Chinese-American kids being on the road with their parents when they see watercress by the side of the road. They stop, get out and collect the watercress. The girl isn't too happy because the considers it weird, but it actually has to do with her parents missing the good stuff from China and so the unassuming little plant becomes a symbol for the girl connecting with her heritage.

The artwork was cute and nicely emphasized the story:

I understand why this book won several awards. Connecting with your family's birthplace when you're from another place can be quite complicated. But it is also quite important to know where one's family is from and to reconcile where one has been with where one is now.

This is a book for children but I think the story itself is for any person, regardless of age.
Profile Image for donna backshall.
678 reviews189 followers
April 6, 2022
"I am ashamed of being ashamed of my family"

I can recall growing up, and hating going to KMart with my parents. I was so scared someone would see us "bargain shopping" and assume we were poor. We were far from hardship, enjoying a sparse but comfortable middle class American life.

There were kids in my school who were getting exotic cars on their 15th birthdays, so they could learn to drive in style. Those were the ones I was fearful would see us shopping Blue Light Specials or dozen-a-bag socks, but I need not have worried because they never shopped there. Just the same, I can recall being such a bitchy princess about it.

And here comes the beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated Watercress, reminding me that not only was I a spoiled brat, but I also knew NOTHING of true hardship. Not of war, starvation, or losing family members.

"I take a bite of the watercress, and it bites me back with its spicy, peppery taste. It is delicate and slightly bitter, like Mom's memories of home [in China]."

Is it dusty in here? My eyes are so watery all of a sudden.
Profile Image for Calista.
4,069 reviews31.3k followers
April 30, 2022
Another beautiful story. Jason Chin is the artist and I knew I knew his name. He has done some amazing things and been honored by Caldecott before. The water colors are fantastic here and the artwork is so delicate.

The story is about a family collecting watercress in a ditch by the side of the road in Ohio and the girl who is embarrassed doing so with her family. Memories are shared with it and the family grows together because of the experience. It's an experience I don't have. Still, our family did things that embarrassed me as a kid, so I can relate in a way.

My one thought I had, was I know what chemicals farmers use in those fields and there is runoff into the ditches, I wouldn't want to eat anything from those ditches, it would be high in pesticides. Anyway

It would be an interesting read for most kid. I wonder how much they would get from the story. I'm glad this story is here. Oh, BTW, the author notes had some great comments worth reading at the end.
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,174 reviews187 followers
August 21, 2021
Chinese-American children's author Andrea Wang, whose previous picture-books include the Chinese New Year's tale The Nian Monster , and the biographical Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando , turns to her own childhood in this deeply felt and immensely moving tale of a young girl who is embarrassed by her family. Passing a wealth of watercress by the side of the road one day, the girl's parents stop the car, and the entire family is enlisted to harvest the plants. Uncomfortable and ashamed - what if other people from her Ohio town see her in the muddy ditch? why can't their family have food from the store, like everyone else? - the girl's resentment builds, finally finding its expression at the dinner table. It is then that her mother does something she never has before: she gets out a family photograph, and shares the story of her own childhood experience, during a terrible famine in China - a famine that claimed the life of her younger brother. Ashamed of her shame, the girl finally eats the watercress, discovering its sharp pleasure, and making a new memory with her family...

I was close to tears on a number of occasions, while reading Watercress, and suspect that I will be thinking of it for some time to come. Simply but powerfully told, Andrea Wang's story addresses issues of poverty, feeling different, family relationships, and the all-pervasive influence of the past. This last, in particular, stood out to me, and is addressed by Wang in her afterword, as she discusses how important it is for immigrant families to share their stories with the younger generation, so that understanding and compassion can replace resentment and shame. The accompanying watercolor artwork from the marvelously talented Jason Chin, who won a Caldecott Honor for his Grand Canyon , perfectly captures the emotional register of the story, from the girl's acute embarrassment at the side of the road, to her overflowing resentment at the dinner table, to her consternation and grief, when she learns her mother's story. This is a story rooted in the Chinese and Chinese-American experience - although not mentioned specifically, it's clear that the famine experienced by the girls' parents was the Great Chinese Famine of 1959-1961, caused by the disastrous "Great Leap Forward" that was inflicted by the Chinese Communists on their country - but it is also universal, something Chin notes in his own afterword. His artwork captures the feeling of the story and its protagonist, while also situating it in a specifically American context, neatly capturing the two strands of the girl's identity.

Moving, thought-provoking, and immensely beautiful, Watercress is a book that I highly recommend, and gained one of my rare five-star ratings. Of the picture-books I have read thus far, that were published in 2021, it is my top contender for the Caldecott Medal.
Profile Image for Ms. B.
3,029 reviews37 followers
April 11, 2021
This heartbreaking story about a young girl who is embarrassed by her mother feels like a 2022 Caldecott contender. Solid story and lovely illustrations.
If you are looking for a story about empathy or if you are a fan of stories about recent immigrants like Bao Phi's A Different Pond, this is the book for you.
Profile Image for Rod Brown.
5,545 reviews197 followers
February 1, 2022
A brief and beautiful illustration of the generational gap that can occur in feelings about cultural traditions and assimilation for immigrants and their children.

I did feel weird that it tangentially invoked in me the horrible old "eat your vegetables, there are starving kids . . . " cliche.

(Another project! I'm reading all the picture books and graphic novels from NPR's Books We Love 2021: Kids’ Books list.)
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,341 reviews
June 15, 2022
4.5 STARS This is excellent. For me, it didn't have quite the same emotional resonance as The Most Beautiful Thing (which I also just read) but it is a similar theme. I think the anger, the frustration, the shame, the anxiety about being different are more of a focus in Watercress and Chin does a remarkable job capturing this in his illustrations -- from that very first illustration of the girl you just feel it all! Perhaps this book is more realistic... or perhaps it's just a different child, a different family, different feelings, different memories (both books are based on the each author's childhood). I appreciate that both the author's and illustrator's notes highlight the fact that many parents who have immigrated to the US don't want to discuss the hardships and sorrows from their past with their children -- yet that is often what makes the children better understand and appreciate their heritage. Also, as Chin notes, that "the anxiety that comes from feeling different [is] not limited to immigrants and their children -- they are universal." Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Agnė.
756 reviews58 followers
April 27, 2021
Watercress is a poignant semi-autobiographical picturebook about a timeless tug of war between fitting in and honoring one’s heritage.

Andrea Wang's poetic, evocative, touching story is, in her own words, "both an apology and a love letter to [her] parents." It reminded me a lot of A Different Pond .

Jason Chin's soft, expressive illustrations are gorgeous, and I loved reading about the layers of intention and meaning behind them in A Note From The Artist in the back matter.

Profile Image for Stephen Kiernan.
Author 10 books936 followers
May 13, 2022
I cannot tell you the last time I read a new book for children. My sons aged out into their own reading too many years ago.
But when I heard about a book that had been a Newbury Award finalist, and a Caldecott Award winner, I decided to take a look.
It required about 30 minutes of my time -- 10 spent reading the story the first time, and 20 appreciating the art, the value of reading about different people's experiences, and learning from the author's and illustrator's comments at the end.
Now I believe this book is a treasure. Enough so that I will try to remember in future years, when the awards for great children's books are handed out, to find those titles and read them.
There is a special pleasure in having a book written for kids that opens your adult mind.
Profile Image for Jamila.
574 reviews104 followers
April 1, 2021
This book is beautiful. Both Wang's poetic narrative and Chin's watercolor paintings provide an emotional punch. The book is quiet, slow and lovely as it illuminates one Chinese American family's day with watercress.

At the same time, the book is filled with dramatic power and raises both raw feelings and honest questions around the issues of racial and ethnic diversity, the lived experiences of first generation Chinese American children, Chinese immigration, Chinese history, memory, food, family, Whiteness, and assimilation.

This book looks at pain and poverty. But, it also centers how we, humans, and particularly this Chinese American family move through trauma by creating new memories of joy, family, and food.

My colleague suggests it would be great for a memoir writing unit in our elementary school.

This book would also be useful for current (2021) U.S. conversations about the lived experiences and histories of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Profile Image for Angela De Groot.
2,274 reviews5 followers
January 30, 2022
A tender but powerful story about family, culture, memories, and fitting in. The lyrical text and watercolor art are both stunningly beautiful and at times heartbreaking. This Pb is a 10.
Profile Image for Amanda .
774 reviews34 followers
January 29, 2022
2022 Caldecott Medal recipient (awarded to the most distinguished American picture book for children by the American Library Association), and Newbery honor book - I read this on my few minute break today.
I found myself relating to the girl in the story, even though my parents were not immigrants like hers. The illustrations are soft and beautiful. A worthy award winner.
The suggested reader age is 4-8, but I feel this book will have a bigger impact on older audiences, especially grade school / middle grades and up.
Check it out.
Profile Image for Cynthia Egbert.
2,235 reviews27 followers
July 29, 2021
I don't give five star reviews lightly but this one totally touched my heart. I picked it up from the library because I have my own memories of harvesting watercress from local ditches but this "love letter to my parents" was so precious. I appreciate the author's honesty and her effort to understand and share her family's history.
March 11, 2022
Written by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Jason Chin, WATERCRESS is a beautiful PB. As I read this story, it reminded me of springtime when I forage for spring greens: dandelion, purple dead nettle, stinging nettle, poke, and, yes, watercress.

This PB is about both personal and collective memories. Although the story focuses on a girl who is the daughter of Chinese immigrants, it could easily be applied to any American family and particularly those families who are subsistence farmers.

Many children yearn to fit in and mistakenly believe that if they do what they believe other kids are doing, then they’re differences will automatically disappear. But the true beauty of humanity is that our differences never disappear. And that’s a good thing.

Wang did a great job of packing in so much information into just a few pages. And I can’t say enough about Chin’s illustrations. The book was so beautifully illustrated that at times it took my breath away. One of my favorite images is when Chin showed the girl’s family on one side of the page with her mother’s natal family on the other. The artwork was just impeccable.

At the end, the author discussed how the PB mirrored her own experiences as a child in Ohio. This is a wonderful PB and I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Christy.
2 reviews
March 6, 2021
Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.

As both an immigrant and a child of immigrants, this stunning picture book spoke volumes. There are so many powerful emotions invoked in this 32-page picture book... I (not only me now, but also my childhood self) felt SEEN. I don't think a picture book has ever made me tear up like this one did.... Thank you Andrea Wang and Jason Chin, for creating this love letter to immigrants and their families.
Profile Image for Karen Witzler.
482 reviews164 followers
August 22, 2021
Beautiful watercolor illustrations by Jason Chin in this Andrea Wang picture book for children 6- 10.

A young girl is ashamed of her Chinese immigrant parents who stop to forage wild watercress. In a gentle, but realistic fashion, she comes to feel "shame for being ashamed" as she learns of the memories her parents associate with this plant.
Profile Image for Mid-Continent Public Library.
591 reviews195 followers
May 11, 2022
This book has been racking up the awards this spring: Caldecott 2022 Winner, Asian/American Award for Literature in the picture book category, and a Newbery 2022 Honor award. I had just checked a copy out of my library, so I opened it up today to see what it was all about. Definitely one I would have picked to be honored for both narrative and illustrations. This is a story that is deeply personal for Andrea Wang and we are all blessed by the sharing of it. Jason Chin's watercolor illustrations strike just the right note and bring her memories to life. Simply gorgeous in every way.
*Review by Darla from Red Bridge*
Profile Image for Deborah.
736 reviews54 followers
May 4, 2022
Watercress gorgeously portrays in both words and watercolors the happy and sad memories of a family. A child is embarrassed when her practical parents stop at the side of the road to dig for watercress. Her Chinese immigrant parents proudly cook the watercress offering not just food but a culture and a past. This is based on a recollection of the author’s childhood in rural Ohio.
Profile Image for Kris Patrick.
1,502 reviews75 followers
February 20, 2022
Yes, the illustrations are gorgeous. But if we are going to insist on asking 8 and 9 year olds to write personal memoirs, we need more texts like Watercress.
Profile Image for Jen .
2,659 reviews27 followers
June 26, 2022
Absolutely beautiful book. The artwork, the story, which is based off of real life, is so touching, I can’t give it less than 5 stars. Highly recommended.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Becky.
594 reviews9 followers
March 31, 2021
So much to love about this picture book! The illustrations by Jason Chin are gorgeous. Then there’s the story: a family’s time picking free watercress by the roadside, a daughter who isn’t enjoying the experience and is concerned about what others think of her. But the shared family meal of eating the watercress brings a revelation to this young girl that gives her insight to a powerful family memory.

I can see so many classroom conversations around this book. It’s a must-have for a school library collection.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Aolund.
1,386 reviews11 followers
April 6, 2021
A gorgeous and affecting book about a Chinese-American family who deepen their bonds to one another by sharing memories after harvesting watercress by the side of the road in their Ohio home. The main character, bitter at being made to harvest the watercress by her parents, is "ashamed at being ashamed of [her] family," but comes to a new level of understanding as she listens to her mother's memories of her family and their experiences in China.

Themes: Food, Family, Immigration, Memory, Fitting In/Standing Out
Age range: Preschool-Early Elementary
Profile Image for Sandra.
302 reviews27 followers
December 31, 2022
In a story about one of my favorite Asian vegetables, a girl learns about the cruelty of famine and how easy it is to take things for granted. A good reminder for those who have everything they need and want.
Profile Image for Sunday.
923 reviews45 followers
June 22, 2021
"Memories have the power to inform, to inspire, and to heal." - Andrea Wang in the author's note

A beautiful story (based on the memories of the author) to read aloud as we get to know our students and as they get to know themselves and their own families better. What are foods your parents love from their childhoods? What are the memories connected to those foods? What does it mean to feel different? And how might different be okay? Even good?

DON'T SKIP THE AUTHOR AND ILLUSTRATOR notes at the end. Worthy, worthy of reading and reading aloud to your students. Especially appreciated Chin for describing his technique and the decisions behind his choices of color palettes, brushes to use, etc - with connections to American and Chinese heritage.

PAIR THIS with any texts you read aloud to students as they explore "small moments" in writing workshop!
Profile Image for Shana OkieCozyReader.
927 reviews33 followers
January 29, 2022
I love that this book is on Epic, so many students have access to it. I am so happy for Jason Chin, that this book just won the Caldecott, because he has created many beautiful books, and this one, is so tenderly thought out and created. As I was reading this book with my special education students this week, I wondered if they all could relate to this character, and in fact, how many students in my school could relate. It is about a girl who is ashamed to be poor and the idea of picking Watercress off the side of the road makes her feel less than other people. She comes to realize the honor of her family. The author in her note at the end mentions feeling the same way and wanting to create something to honor her family. Beautiful book and message.
Profile Image for Katie.
296 reviews
December 21, 2021
As a Chinese American kid growing up in the 90s, what I longed for were books/movies/tv where Asian kids were normal and cool—not beautifully illustrated lectures about how my family suffered under Mao.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,046 reviews

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