All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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A video interview with

Janet Wong

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Janet Wong was born in Los Angeles in 1962. She was the daughter of a Chinese father and a Korean mother. While growing up in California, she enjoyed watching TV with her dad, playing with her friends, catching lizards, and riding her skateboard. There were no early signs that Janet would become an author or a poet. In fact, she hated poetry in elementary school because of the way it was taught. And she wasn't much of a reader either — she found reading to be too quiet and lonely.

At the University of California in Los Angeles, Janet Wong studied history. She later earned a law degree from Yale and spent the next four years practicing law. While working as the Director of Labor Relations at Universal Studios, Wong realized that she was unhappy in her line of work. One day, as she was shopping in a children's book store, it struck her that what she really wanted to do was write books for children. After discussing it with her husband, Wong quit her job, started writing, and quickly piled up rejection letters. While taking a writing class, Wong realized that poetry, her least favorite genre in elementary school, might in fact become her most successful genre as a writer.

Janet Wong sold her first book of poems, Good Luck Gold, eighteen months after she quit her job as a lawyer. Her courageous career change later became the subject of a segment on the Oprah Winfrey Show called "Remembering Your Spirit". Some of Wong's books, like Apple Pie Fourth of July, explore the tension between having immigrant roots and wanting to be accepted as an American. Other books playfully address topics with which Wong has less direct experience, such as yoga and dumpster diving. In addition to writing, Janet Wong visits classrooms and speaks at conferences.

Janet Wong lives with her husband and son in Princeton, New Jersey.

Selected Books

from Janet Wong

Behind the Wheel: Poems about Driving

Age Level: 14-16

Wong presents a series of poems centered around a popular theme with teens: driving. Readers will find much more depth to each poem, with the theme of driving often serving as a metaphor for life.

Buy Behind the Wheel: Poems about Driving

A Suitcase of Seaweed and Other Poems

Age Level: 12-14

Wong writes poems of realization and identity. Whether the words are about customs or careers, they provide a sense of who the author has become because of her pride in her blood-lines.

Buy A Suitcase of Seaweed and Other Poems

Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams

Age Level: 9-12

In this collection, Wong records many of her own dreams as free verse poems. She also finds inspiration in her friends and family — even her dog!

Buy Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams