Understated, deep, and heart-rending—bring tissues.

WATERCRESS

A Chinese American family pulls their car over to gather wild watercress growing by the roadside.

As the family sheds their shoes and rolls up their pants to wade into the gully, the narrator of Wang’s poignant free-verse text is anything but happy. Mud squelching between toes, holding a soggy brown bag full of what looks like weeds, the preteen ducks down as a car passes lest their family is recognized. But for Mom and Dad, the moment is emotional. In one exceptional double-page spread Chin paints the faded red 1960s-era car parked on the left, with cornstalks bordering the road transforming into bamboo stalks and a soft-focus sepia-toned image of rural China on the right. “From the depths of the trunk / they unearth / a brown paper bag, / rusty scissors, // and a longing for China,” reads the text. In another, Mom and Dad praise the watercress for being both fresh and free, but to the next generation, “free is / hand-me-down clothes and / roadside trash-heap furniture and / now, / dinner from a ditch.” It isn’t until Mom finally shares the story of her family in China that her child understands the importance of this simple dish of greens, this “delicate and slightly bitter” watercress. Wang’s moving poetry paired with—and precisely laid out on—Chin’s masterfully detailed illustrations capture both an authentic Midwestern American landscape and a very Chinese American family, together infusing a single event with multiple layers laden with emotion, memory, and significance.

Understated, deep, and heart-rending—bring tissues. (author's note, illustrator's note) (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4624-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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This tale of self-acceptance and respect for one’s roots is breathtaking.

EYES THAT KISS IN THE CORNERS

A young Chinese American girl sees more than the shape of her eyes.

In this circular tale, the unnamed narrator observes that some peers have “eyes like sapphire lagoons / with lashes like lace trim on ballgowns,” but her eyes are different. She “has eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.” Author Ho’s lyrical narrative goes on to reveal how the girl’s eyes are like those of other women and girls in her family, expounding on how each pair of eyes looks and what they convey. Mama’s “eyes sparkl[e] like starlight,” telling the narrator, “I’m a miracle. / In those moments when she’s all mine.” Mama’s eyes, the girl observes, take after Amah’s. While she notes that her grandmother’s eyes “don’t work like they used to,” they are able to see “all the way into my heart” and tell her stories. Here, illustrator Ho’s spreads bloom with references to Chinese stories and landscapes. Amah’s eyes are like those of the narrator’s little sister. Mei-Mei’s eyes are filled with hope and with admiration for her sister. Illustrator Ho’s textured cartoons and clever use of light and shadow exude warmth and whimsy that match the evocative text. When the narrator comes to describe her own eyes and acknowledges the power they hold, she is posed against swirling patterns, figures, and swaths of breathtaking landscapes from Chinese culture. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 80.5% of actual size.)

This tale of self-acceptance and respect for one’s roots is breathtaking. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-291562-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A gem for every household.

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ALL BECAUSE YOU MATTER

Two accomplished creators invite Black children to take up their spaces in the world.

Charles’ lyrical text addresses “you, dear child,” in the voice of a loving caregiver, recounting how the world anticipated and prepared for the child’s existence. The child was “dreamed of, / like a knapsack / full of wishes / carried on the backs / of your ancestors,” who worked and built, “because to them, / you always mattered.” The word “matter” is used in both ways: as a noun, as the child is made up of the same stuff that makes up the universe, and as a verb, because “strength, power and beauty / lie within,” even though the world will sometimes make the child question whether “they, / or you, / will ever matter.” The universe made room for “you, / your people, / their dreams, / your future,” Charles assures the child. The protesters (“take a breath, / take a stand, / take a knee”) and victims of racist violence (“Trayvon, / Tamir, / Philando”) are mentioned explicitly without becoming the focus; the journey from beginning to end of the book sends a message that is nurturing, nourishing, loving, and reassuring, expanding and deepening the words of the movement it echoes. Collier’s trademark paint-and-collage illustrations use petal shapes with patterns and faces, blue and brown hues, and family scenes and close-ups to embody the child’s growth within affectionate circles of family, community, and universe.

A gem for every household. (author's note, illustrator's note) (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57485-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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