Author: Andrea Wang | Illustrator: Jason Chin
Disclaimer: I am not an expert in the technical aspects of this book. The experts are the book creators. My reviews are my opinions.
Have you ever been ashamed of your heritage?
WATERCRESS, which tackles this conflict, is one of my favorite picture books. Author Andrea Wang is a master wordsmith. Her poetic language, alliteration, sensory words, and similes captivated me in this heart-wrenching book about a young girl who shunned her Chinese heritage to assimilate to the “American way,” that is, until she learned about her family’s tragic past.
The text coupled with stunning and emotion-dripping illustrations by Jason Chin will transport you from Ohio to China and back smoothly and effortlessly. For example, corn stalks transitioned to bamboo shoots from one page to the next.
This book will resonate with many people whether or not their parents are immigrants. Although I’ve never been ashamed of my West Indian heritage, I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. Therefore, I don’t share all of who I am with everyone. This is fine, as long as it’s for the right reasons.
People of color in this country, born here or elsewhere, likely code switch or hide parts of themselves to make others comfortable. Books like WATERCRESS are tools parents can use to begin that dialogue with their children to help break these unfortunate cycles.
Theme: Appreciation of heritage
Tense: Present tense (1st person)
External Journey: Being accepted by American society
Internal Journey: Accepting her Chinese heritage
Story Arc: Rags to riches
Story Structure: Classic plot. She rejects her family’s values three times by the story’s climax.
Story Start | End: Begins with a scene where the main character is physically in a car with her family but is not present. In the end, she is no longer aloof and engages with her family.
Plot type: Discovery. Eventually, the MC learns something and changes her outlook.
Pacing: Slows for flashbacks of China.
Dialogue: Sparse dialogue used to convey emotion: excitement and pain.
Illustration: The lighting reflects emotions and the illustration is used as a tool to explain the family’s tragedy without spelling it out.