Watercress – The Calls (plus a giveaway!)

Huge thanks to all my PBB colleagues and to you, dear readers, for your kind words of congratulations! I can’t believe that it’s been a month since the ALA Youth Media Awards were announced. It feels like yesterday. It also feels like 4 months, not 4 weeks. I guess that’s what happens when your reality shifts. Time does weird things. I also do weird new things, like running my fingers over the Caldecott seal every time I pass the book, which is displayed strategically behind my desk so it shows up in every Zoom call.

Watercress with new bling!

I don’t yet have the Newbery Honor or APALA award stickers to put on my copy, but I’m sure I’ll be petting them once they arrive, too, just to make sure that they’re real. Three ALA awards for Watercress. I still can’t wrap my head around it. My friends here at PBB thought you’d like to hear about the calls, and I’ve always thought it would be fun to interview myself, so here goes:

Which call did you get first and what was your reaction?

I had just gotten home from walking my dog Tupelo when my editor Neal Porter called. He wanted to know if I’d “seen the email” yet, which sounded slightly ominous. When I said no, he replied that he was happy he got to share the news with me, which relieved my anxiety. But it was mid-December and the ALA awards were not on my mind — everyone knows that the awards committees make The Calls early in the morning on the day of the announcement ceremony, which was still a month away. So when Neal told me that Watercress had won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in the picture book category, I had to sit down. I don’t really remember what happened next, but I probably asked him to repeat himself or said something brilliant like, “What? Are you serious?” And then after I promised to keep it a secret, we ended the call so he could tell Jason the news. I was stunned and thrilled, but even more than that, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude. It’s an incredible thing to be recognized by librarians, who read huge numbers of books. And knowing those librarians share my identity as an Asian American made it even more special. My husband and I celebrated by going out to dinner that night, but then I had to put it out of my mind or else keeping it a secret for a month was going to drive me batty.

Grey long eared bat. Cute but a little frazzled-looking!

You mean even battier than usual? Seriously, though, congrats on not telling anyone more than three people. When did you find out about the Caldecott Medal?

The Caldecott Medal is given to the artist for the illustrations in a children’s book, so I didn’t get a call from the award committee. Jason did, though, as he recounts in his interview with Mr. Schu on his blog Watch. Connect. Read. Essentially, he was tricked into a Zoom call with Neal the Saturday before the ALA YMA ceremony and was unprepared to find the Caldecott committee on the screen!

How I imagine the Caldecott call went down. Note: This is not actually a photo of Jason Chin. Nor is it Simu Liu.

But you did get a call that day, right?

Yes, Neal called me that afternoon, conferenced Jason in, and let Jason tell me that he had won. It was awesome. I got choked up listening to them both but then I really lost it after hanging up. I tried to tell my husband the news but all that came out was a gasp and a flood of tears. I was (and still am) SO HAPPY for Jason. His art took Watercress to another level entirely. It wouldn’t be the book that it is without his vision and talent.

You cry a lot, don’t you? I mean, you’ve said that you cried while writing the book, while reading the book aloud, and now after it gets awards… dare I even ask about the Newbery Honor?

As I said on ALSC‘s Newbery Coffee Klatch last week, I’m going to own being a crier. I’m going to lean in to crying and stop apologizing for it. That’s just how my body reacts to strong emotion — by leaking out of my eyes. And yes, I cried when the Newbery committee called the Sunday before the ALA YMA to tell me that I had won the Honor award, and I cried when Neal called and conferenced Jason in again and this time let me tell him that I had won. The Newbery Medal is given “to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” and is typically awarded to longer works, so to receive the Honor for a picture book was just incomprehensible to me. Watercress is only the fifth picture book to have received both Caldecott and Newbery recognition. Mind. Blown.

So what now? What does this all mean and what are you going to do?

I wish this meant that I could retire to a yurt in the woods to write at my leisure…

My imaginary happy place. Someday…

<snaps back to reality> …but actually it means I’ll be wearing yoga pants less often, as I have many events lined up for the, uh, next year. (Note to self: update website with events!) Don’t worry, I’ll still be wearing pants, just not ones with forgiving waistbands. I’m looking forward to seeing friends and soon-to-be friends in person, and wishing with all my might that the awards banquet at the ALA Annual Conference this summer will be in person, too. If you happen to be going, look for me — I’ll be the crying one.

On a more serious note, what the awards mean is that Watercress will be on library and bookstore shelves for many years to come. I am thrilled that a book about Chinese immigrants and their Chinese American kids will reach so many readers. May it reflect their experiences back to them, or open a window or door for them to see our common humanity.

Don’t forget to talk about your books, silly. And the giveaway.

Oh, right. My next picture book, Luli and the Language of Tea, comes out on May 17, 2022, also from Neal Porter Books/Holiday House. I’ll be doing an interview with the fabulous illustrator, Hyewon Yum, for my PBB post that month! I’m also working on revisions to my second MG novel and a PB biography, and trying to do research for another PB bio. That yurt is sounding more enticing by the second!

Thank you all for reading this post and for sharing in my joy! It means a lot to me!

Coming 5/17/2022!

Giveaway: Leave a comment by Friday, March 4th to be entered in a giveaway for a signed copy of Watercress! It won’t have the bling, but it is from the first printing. U.S. addresses only.

Andrea Wang

Andrea Wang is an acclaimed author of children’s books. Her book Watercress was awarded the Caldecott Medal, a Newbery Honor, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor. Her other books, The Many Meanings of Meilan, Magic Ramen, and The Nian Monster, have also received awards and starred reviews. Her work explores culture, creative thinking, and identity. Andrea holds an M.S. in Environmental Science and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for Young People. She lives in Colorado with her family and pandemic pup, Tupelo.

88 Comments:

  1. Andrea,

    I loved reading about your calls and your journey. Huge congratulations! All your accolades are well-deserved!

  2. Congrats again and again! Keep on crying!!

  3. Oh, thank you for sharing how you received all the exciting news! Congratulations on all your success. I can’t wait to read Luli and the Language of Tea.

  4. So lovely to share in your joy. I was rooting for your book from the beginning! Congratulations again!!

  5. What a fun post-your batty alter ego is darling! Many, many good wishes to you and Jason!

    • Thank you, Ashley! I admit that while I was writing this post, I kept hearing one of my MFA writing instructors in my head, who used to tell me “Make it funnier!” Such a hard thing to do under pressure, LOL.

  6. Such well-deserved awards. Watercress is an amazing book. I am not Asian American, but Watercress spoke to me and my childhood, growing up in hand-me-down clothes and food insecurity. Thank you for bringing those realities into the world of kidlit.

    • Thank you so much, Marilny! I’m happy that Watercress resonated with you. I hope that the book helps more readers understand that food insecurity is still an issue in the U.S.

  7. I was at my local library to arrange details for an author event. It was a day or two after the awards announcements. While waiting for my meeting ,I sat and read Watercress. It brought tears to my eyes, with the simplicity and beauty of both the text and illustrations. The reader can feel the range of deep emotions experienced across all the generations of this family, in a way that educates and uplifts. I had a beautiful moment of feeling peace and compassion and connection while reading your book. Its message and meaning will resonate across generations and cultures. And Jason’s art brings and keeps the reader in the story, in a timeless and evocative way – totally deserving of the Caldecott! CONGRATULATIONS!

  8. Awww, congratulations! What a lovely story of hearing about your awards! I think I would cry too. Yay!

  9. Such exciting news- and well deserved! Congrats!!

  10. Debra Kempf Shumaker

    An amazing post! I love WATERCRESS sooooooo much and it deserves every honor it wins. Congratulations!!!!!

  11. I absolutely love this book. I need it in my collection.

  12. In a time when so much has felt troubling or askew, the success and honors for WATERCRESS has felt exactly, perfectly right! Celebrating (and crying) right along beside you!

  13. Katie Mills Giorgio

    this is so lovely…and I’m crying too! Own it sister!! 🙂

  14. Sharon Fujimoto-Johnson

    I’m so thankful this beautiful book about the Asian American immigrant experience exists and that it has received the recognition it deserves. Congratulations!!

  15. Andrea, such happy tears!!! Watercress is so beautiful and it makes me happy to know it will delight children for years and years to come. Congratulations on all the honor and recognition!!! So richly deserved. I hope you’ll get a room of your own, if not a yurt 🙂

    • Thank you, Vijaya! I really can’t complain about not having a yurt. I do have an office in my house, but it comes with a dog and laundry and dusting and bills, LOL

  16. I enjoyed reading about your reactions to the awards announcements. Congratulations! Watercress is gorgeous.

  17. Wow! Many congratulations! Thanks for sharing!

  18. Thank you for sharing your excitement about the recent honors for Watercress. Congratulations! For someone who hopes to have her own book on a shelf in the future, it’s both inspiring and exciting to hear about your journey. And, that yurt sounds appealing – so does writing at leisure! 🙂 Have a great day!

  19. Such a beautiful book and so deserving of all the awards! Congratulations and thank you for sharing the excitement surrounding “the calls!”

  20. Consummate weeper here, and weeping for joy for you and all the well-deserved accolades for you and your heartfelt book! Love you, Andrea <3!!!

  21. Ohh! I’ve been excited about Watercress! And Jason Chin is one of my favorite illustrators.

  22. I think you deserve a lovely yurt. Heck, I’d love one, too…Congratulations on such a lovely book.

  23. So fun to read about all your phone calls & how everything transpired. Huge congratulations! FWIW, I sometimes cry too. Can’t wait to read your next picture book!

  24. Janet Frenck Sheets

    Such a beautiful book! Thanks for telling us about “the calls” and letting us share the joy.

  25. This looks like a beautiful book. I would love to have a copy for my two granddaughters.

  26. Huge congratulations to all! I’ll be looking out for Luli and the Language of Tea.

  27. CONGRATULATIONS Andre and Jason!

  28. I absolutely LOVED Watercress! It is deserving of all and every award. Congratulations!!??

  29. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Congratulations!!!

  30. Congratulations to you and Jason! How exciting for you to get so many calls. I always love hearing about those wonderful calls.

  31. I checked out Watercress from my library and read and reread it over and over, all the time seeing, reading, or learning something new each time. My granddaughter loved it as we read together. This is a simply lovely story told by words with a marriage of illustrations and memories to be shared and creating moments to recall of your own. Congrats on a great job!

  32. Thanks for sharing your joy (and tears!)

  33. Thank you, Andrea, for sharing your journey and your joy. It seems that the yurt will be a dream for quite a while. Watercress is an amazing book that touches me on so many levels. Thank you for this gift, so richly deserving of all the accolades that it is receiving. Wishing you all the best.

    • Thank you, Anne! Yes, the yurt will have to wait. I admit that I checked out the ones in Rocky Mountain National Park that can be rented, but alas, they don’t have wi-fi so they’re not so great for meeting deadlines!

  34. Andrea Wang, this is THRILLING. Those in my circle agreed immediately upon reading Watercress that it’s something special. The economy of the language and illustrations–the worlds and depth of emotion that is delivered in such a short work of art—-wow. Searing. Journey to self love through love of family that I think many children and adults identify with on the level of race–and otherwise. The Caldecott and the Newberry!-outrageous! — This really puts me on a high. Congratulations.

  35. I laughed repeatedly at your interview. Thanks for sharing the roller coaster ride. So delighted for all of the well-deserved love for WATERCRESS.

  36. Congratulations! Very well deserved! ❤️

  37. Congrats, and I also cried–while reading Watercress. So beautiful and moving, Andrea (and Jason). Well-deserved honors, indeed.

  38. Book looks wonderful! hope to read it to my twins!

  39. Andrea, how amazing! Congratulations to you and Jason. So well deserved.

  40. Congrats on all the honors and recognitions, Andrea! Your self-interview was great, too.

  41. What an amazing journey. Congratulations to you and Jason!

  42. Watercress is on my list of books to purchase! Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

  43. Congratulations!!! I would have my “emotions leaking out of my eyes” if I were in your shoes too. Thanks for sharing this wonderful time with us.

  44. My heart is so full for you, Andrea. I cried tears of joy for you and I’m glad you are not apologizing for how you express your emotions. HUGE congrats once again. So well deserved.

  45. Natalie Lynn Tanner

    CONGRATS, ANDREA! This is a MUCH-DESERVED HONOR for such a BEAUTIFUL story/book. Having read it, I can DEFINITELY see why it has gained SO MUCH recognition. What a WONDERFUL way to pay tribute to your heritage. THANK YOU for sharing it with us, too!

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