asian-american, author spotlight, social-emotional

Author Spotlight: Andrea Wang

Andrea Wang loves to tell stories that have a personal connection to her own life as a Chinese-American. She was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1970. During Andrea’s childhood, she came to love the Chinese myths of her family’s culture. As a toddler, they moved to Yellow Springs, Ohio, an extremely rural town. As a result, she developed a profound love of reading and exploring nature around her. The family moved back to Massachusetts when Andrea was in middle school, letting her experience urban life. A Master’s degree in environmental science led to a consultancy job for the state of Mass. She is also married and has had two sons. While staying home to care for her children, Andrea discovered a love of writing that came out of her hunger to read. Stories from her life and the broad scope of Asian culture are present in everything she writes, helping us hear voices not often represented in American children’s literature.

Luli and the Language of Tea (Neal Porter Books)
Written by Andrea Wang
Illustrated by Hyewon Yum

For ages: 3-7
A group of adults is attending an English as a second language class. Their children attend the free daycare in the room next door. Just like their parents, these children do not share a common language that they know. Lulu, whose parents brought her from China, wants everyone to play together and thinks she has found a way to build communication. She’s got a complete tea set for everyone to enjoy. When the children see what she has brought and hear her word for tea (“Chá”), they chime in with their native word for the same beverage. We’re treated to Russian, Hindi, Turkish, Persian, and more. The gentleness present in both the text and the illustrations is so delicate. It is sure to bring a peaceful, calming energy to your read-aloud. The back matter includes a non-fiction piece that shows each child’s geographical location and shares some details about how tea is enjoyed in that place.

Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando (little bee books)
Written by Andrea Wang
Illustrated by Kana Urbanowicz

For ages: 4-8
Our children know about instant ramen. Food insecurity in America is widespread enough that almost every family in your classroom has relied on this cheap, quick meal to fill their family’s bellies. Andrea Wang shares the true story of Japanese chef Momofuku Ando who invented instant ramen in the wake of World War II. He saw that people were struggling to feed themselves and their loved ones. Ando experiments with ingredients, always getting close but not quite. When Ando watches his wife frying tempura, he strikes upon the solution for his noodles. The illustrations here are a classic evocation of Japanese manga (comic books), delivering a true story of innovation & creativity with the energy it deserves. Our children lack much knowledge about how their food is sourced, and books like these help them develop a greater understanding of where it comes from.

Watercress (Neal Porter Books)
Written by Andrea Wang
Illustrated by Jason Chin

For ages: 5-9
A Chinese family’s drive along a rural road brings them back to long ago. The parents pull the car over when they spot watercress growing on the side. The preteen kids are embarrassed by their parent’s enthusiasm and sink in their seats. Through listening, they learn that Mom and Dad have a lot of strong emotions associated with this otherwise modest plant. The illustrations show slight transitions between their old life in China and the world they now live in. The Asian immigrant experience is at the center of this story, with the children having different thoughts about what it means for something to be free. Eventually, Mom shares a story about her brother. She cooks the watercress that helps her children fully realize what being alive today means to their elders. A beautiful, poetic story that touches on such a crucial experience and perspective.

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