A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Cress' mom is a skilled weaver, and there's a lot of detail about the craft as Cress helps her with her creations. Never having lived outdoors, Cress is amazed to see the moon -- and find out how it appears, disappears, and returns to do it all over again.
Strong messages of family, friendship, kindness, empathy, and making the best of things when bad things happen that you can't fix. Also of discovering that your stereotypes and assumptions about others, and the situation you're in, aren't necessarily accurate, for good or ill. As Fricassee Sunday, the chicken, puts it, "Home is a funny idea. It's mostly a safe place, but sometimes they plan to kill you and eat you. Out here is wild, but you can still get eaten? I don't know which is better? But I know I don't want to go back there ... I think it's something called freedom? Which is thrilling but worrying?"
Positive Role Models
Cress doesn't always do the right thing -- especially when her grief for her father makes her say cruel things to her mother, who's also grieving -- but she loves her family, tries to be a good friend, uses her skills and energy to solve problems and help out. Her friend Finny, a squirrel, puts up with her flaws, always has her back. Her mom, who's trying to keep the family together in a new world while dealing with grief, is not only a brilliant artist, a good neighbor, and a great problem-solver, she's very good at seeing through deceptions and being there at the critical moment when her kids need her. Other characters all have their quirks, but most turn out to be helpful and interesting community members.
Characters belong to different species, and often discover that their assumptions about one another are more prejudice than fact.
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Violence & Scariness
Cress' father is missing and presumed dead, causing many changes in the little family's life. Their new landlord, an owl, reserves the right to eat them if they don't pay their rent -- in dead moths, so the family lights a candle to lure moths to their death. A fox is seen devouring a chicken and wanting to devour rabbits. A snake known as the Final Drainpipe also lurks. A huge bear with a yen for honey is threatening. All the other rabbits have vanished; no one seems to know why. A skunk imprisons a chinchilla and other characters. A hen flees the farm for her life after overhearing plans to turn her into Sunday dinner. Assorted scary misadventures, like a perilous rafting expedition. The squirrel brothers bite each other -- and sometimes Cress -- on the tail, sometimes for fun and sometimes to make them stop whatever they're doing.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Wine, beer, and cordials are sometimes mentioned as part of meals or celebrations or otherwise part of daily life, but not consumed to excess.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Cress Watercress is a wry, whimsical, imaginative tale by Wicked author Gregory Maguire about a rabbit family coming to terms with the father's death and adjusting to new living situations, neighbors, and dangers. Death is an ever present possibility, and always part of the story, as the family must kill moths to pay their rent or, in theory at least, be eaten by their landlord, an owl. Or maybe by the fox, Monsieur Renard, or the snake known as the Final Drainpipe. Meanwhile, a hen hears a farmer planning to eat her for Sunday dinner and flees to the woods, and a skunk has a habit of capturing and enslaving other creatures. Family, friendship, empathy, and community are strong themes as the title character, the big sister of the family, struggles with grief and the challenges of her new life. Also important: looking past your assumptions and prejudices as you learn more.
Is It Any Good?
Author Gregory Maguire spins a poignant, relatable, darkly funny tale of a rabbit family dealing with death, loss, change, and peril. Hero and title character Cress Watercress encounters many challenges and doesn't always do the right thing, especially when dealing with her own grief. But she learns from her experiences, helped along by a strong mom, a good friend, and a lot of animal characters who often aren't quite what first impressions would suggest. David Litchfield's plentiful, lively, full-color illustrations put the reader in the midst of it all -- darkness and light.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.