Review of Watercress, by Andrea Wang, pictures by Jason Chin

Watercress

by Andrea Wang
pictures by Jason Chin

Neal Porter Books, 2021. 36 pages.
Review written April 17, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

I knew that any picture book illustrated by Jason Chin would be stunningly beautiful, but I didn’t know how much this story would haunt me.

We see that we’ve gone back in time to a girl sitting in the back seat of an old red Pontiac. Her parents excitedly stop the car when they see watercress by the side of the road, in a muddy ditch next to a corn field.

In her stance, in her expression, you can see the girl is not happy about this stop. The whole family gets out and gathers watercress in paper bags. She gets wet and muddy, and her brother makes it worse. When a car passes, she ducks and hopes it’s not anyone she knows.

When they get home, the watercress is prepared for dinner, with garlic and sesame seeds. The girl doesn’t want anything to do with it.

Mom and Dad press me to try some.
“It is fresh,” Dad says.
“It is free,” Mom says.
I shake my head.

Free is bad.
Free is
hand-me-down clothes and
roadside trash-heap furniture and
now,
dinner from a ditch.

It takes a memory, and a photo, from the girl’s mother to change her attitude, with new appreciation for memories and family and watercress.

This is indeed a beautiful book, with emotions clearly shown in the pictures, with more subdued tones for memories. The text, too, is beautiful. Simple and spare, but saying so much.

An exquisite story about feeling like an outsider, and about family and memory.

HolidayHouse.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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