Janet Wong

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.

Books by This Author

The Trip Back Home

Illustrated by: Bo Jia
Age Level: 3-6
Language: English

Based on the author's experience, a child visits the village in Korea where her mother lived before immigrating to America. The simplicity of the text provides rich details of everyday life in the small Korean village, enhanced by realistic illustrations.

This Next New Year

Illustrated by: Yangsook Choi
Age Level: 3-6
Language: Chinese, English, Korean

Janet Wong shares a young boy's hopes and dreams for the New Year — he has had so much bad luck in the past year, but he is certain that this year will be much luckier! A heartwarming and honest portrayal of what the chance to start over means for all of us. An author's note provides insight into her background and this festive occasion.  This book is also available in Chinese and Korean bilingual editions.

Twist: Yoga Poems

Illustrated by: Julie Paschkis
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

Simple, evocative poetry suggest the meanings which inspire various yoga stances, movements, and more. The short poems coupled with handsome illustrations encourage imagination as together they show how a movement or pose can suggest something quite different.

You Have to Write

Illustrated by: Teresa Flavin
Age Level: 6-9

It's what every child who hates to write dreads most: the assignment that says they MUST do so. But it's not so bad when young people use their own experiences. A light, affirming text in free verse and interspersed with full-color illustrations may motivate even a reticent writer.