Not Great at Comebacks? Write a Picture Book ‹Literary Hub

Each week on NewberyTartJennie and Marcy, two book-loving mamas (and a librarian and a bookseller, respectively), read and drink their way through the entire catalog of Newbery books, and interview authors and illustrators along the way.

In this episode, Marcy and Jennie talk to Andrea Wang, author of Watercressa 2022 Newbery Honor Book, Caldecott Medal Winner, and APALA Award Winner.

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From the episode:

Andrea Wang: My books have been my way of responding to things that are going on around me or personal experiences. I’ve always written as a form of communication and conversation because I’m not one of those people that’s really articulate in the moment. I’m always thinking up the response to a question four days later. And so books give me the time — years and years — to come up with the perfect response.

The Nian Monster, my first picture book, was a response to a neighbor who I bumped into after my family and I had come home from being in China for three weeks visiting my in-laws. She stopped to welcome me back, and she said, “Welcome back to civilization.” I didn’t know what to say in the moment. I just went back in my house. And The Nian Monster came out of that microaggression. It was my way of showing people that China is not backwards. It’s very modern. It can be very contemporary. And it is one of the oldest continuous civilizations.

So that was how that book came about — it was this conversation that I wanted to keep having. And Watercress is also very much a conversation with my parents, who are no longer here.


Andrea Wang is the award-winning author of The Nian Monster and Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando. She was inspired to write Watercress by her experience growing up in rural Ohio as a child of Chinese immigrants. Andrea holds an MS in Environmental Science and an MFA in Creative Writing for Young People. She lives in Colorado with her family.

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