Tag Archives: Watercress

Starting with the Little Ones

Continuing the Best of EatReadSleep’s Tenth Anniversary!

I read everything, but children’s books are also my profession. I loved reading to my son when he was little, and now I have grandchildren to turn into bibliophiles. During the ten years that I’ve been writing EatReadSleep, I have been the children’s selector for a large library system. Here are some of my favorites from that time.

Board Books

I have only written one post about these sturdy little volumes, and it was meant to be funny. Seriously, though, Sandra Boynton, Michael Dahl, and others have poured their prodigious talents into books that will be slobbered and chewed on, and parents everywhere appreciate it.

Academic Board Books are a thriving industry. Lots of titles here. Also lots of snark.

Picture Books

Picture books! Those little artistic gems. How I love them. The best picture books convey oceans of meaning in just a few well-chosen words, along with gorgeous or hilarious illustrations. Here are some of my favorites over the years. Many of the reviews are grouped in the original posts. Click the links for full reviews!

Series:

How Do Dinosaurs…? Jane Yolen is one the most prolific living writers, and this continuing series never fails to teach lessons in the cleverest ways.
Pete the Cat is one groovy dude. James Litwin started the series, which was continued by James Dean. This is one of the most popular series going these days.
Olivia makes an appearance in the same post. She is one precocious little pig.
Duck and Goose are a charming pair, one more adventurous than the other. Tad Hills is also the author of the excellent Rocket Learns to Read and others.
Jean Reagan writes the How to Babysit a…. series, instructing children to allow grandparents naps and other helpful advice. Comedy that hits close to home.
Bonny Becker started the Bear series with A Visitor for Bear. Sweet, charming, and amusing. Large volumes just right for bedtimes.
What dog lover doesn’t sympathize with Carter Goodrich’s Mister Bud? Adorable.
Some children’s books, like Muppets movies, are at least partly written for grownups, even though they definitely work for the kids, too. I Am Otter is one of those.

Single Titles:

Oh, this poor, little penguin. Flight School will have you sympathetically laughing along.
The Tortoise & the Hare is a wordless wonder, just one of the Caldecott winner’s stunning creations.
There Might Be Lobsters is a summery title that will help timid children to overcome their fears.
Hum and Swish is another breezy, oceanside title. This one encourages children to stay true to their own vision.
Great Joy is not your usual Santa-and-his-reindeer Christmas books for kids. Enduring and gorgeous. Tissues not included.
I mean, seriously. Look at those ears and tell me you’re not in love. In a Jar is for every child whose friend has moved away.
Sweety is a confident little misfit. For every child who marches to the beat of her own drummer. Sweetness and naked mole rats. (That’s a species, not a state of undress.)
This Is My Home, This Is My School. A fond look back by a happily homeschooled author, for his younger fellow home educators and their friends in conventional school settings.
Everything about Madeline Finn and the Library Dog will make you say, “Awww.” There are other books that follow, but I love this one.
Watercress is a recent multi-award winner, a quietly beautiful book that packs an emotional wallop.
Clovis Keeps His Cool, but just barely. That huge bull with the petite feet! Hilarious with a message.
Achingly poignant, Boats for Papa is for little ones experiencing the loss of a parent, whether through divorce, abandonment, incarceration, or death.
The Steads can do no wrong. A Sick Day for Amos McGee was the first Caldecott winner for this married couple and features an old zookeeper and his loving animals.
Saint George and the Dragon was old when my son was young. A medieval myth retold and spectacularly illustrated by one of my favorite book artists.

There will be many more children’s books to come, so stay tuned!

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Watercress, by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Jason Chin

A young girl in Ohio is embarrassed to pick watercress from the side of the road with her immigrant parents. She hopes that no one they know will drive by. Once they are home, sitting at the dinner table, she refuses to eat the watercress, saying that she only wants to eat vegetables from the grocery store. Her parents are flabbergasted that anyone would reject food that is fresh and free. Any parent reading this picture book will recognize the look on the girl’s face: it is the universal refuse-to-eat-vegetables face. Mom goes into the bedroom and retrieves a photo of her family when she was a little girl in China. During the great famine, they ate whatever they could find, but it was not enough. In the picture is a pitifully thin little boy, and the girl realizes that her uncle is not alive today.

Andrea Wang won an Asian / Pacific American Award, Boston Globe / Horn Book Award, and a Newbery honor for Watercress. The mark of a great picture book is the ability to convey great meaning and emotion in a few words while keeping the book appropriate for and appealing to children. Wang does exactly that here, in a story that she confesses in her author’s note is somewhat autobiographical. In just a small amount of text, she brings her first-person narrator from anger to understanding, and her readers will have their eyes opened to the depth of their own older relatives’ experiences. Wang encourages everyone to tell their stories to their children.

Jason Chin won a Caldecott medal for this book. In his note, he says that he used misty, soft blue, green, and ochre tones as if to evoke memories, like the ones the parents have of growing up in the Chinese countryside. With just a stroke or two, he shows the girl’s anger and disgust at living differently from all of her friends and classmates. Later, her face is a picture of shame when she comes to understand her perfectly practical parents. Chin also won awards for his previous book, Grand Canyon, and his work has a distinctive and pleasing style.

Watercress is a lovely picture book for every child that will foster understanding of different cultures as well as encouraging gratitude for their blessings and honor for older people.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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