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Rainbow Shopping by Qing Zhuang

Updated: Feb 21

Qing Zhuang shares Rainbow Shopping (Holiday House), a heartfelt tribute to Chinatown and spending days-off together in which sharing a delicious meal helps a child feel loved.

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About the book: Rainbow Shopping by Qing Zhuang; published by Holiday House

Sharing a delicious meal helps a child feel loved in this heartfelt tribute to Chinatown and spending days-off together.

On a rainy Saturday, a young girl feels as gray as a pigeon. Since moving from China to New York City, Mom, Dad, and Grandma have been very busy working. But a trip to Mom's favorite Chinatown store to find the best produce, seafood, and spices for dinner just might turn the girl's day around.

Later on, Dad steams, boils, fries, and stir-fries all the ingredients while girl and Grandma taste-test. After cozy goodnights, a final dream spread shows the family walking hand-in-hand in rainbow colors--an affirmation of love and support even on rainy, gray days.

Inspired by Qing Zhuang's experience as a first generation Chinese American, Rainbow Shopping explores a young child's feelings of loneliness and discovery with tenderness and humor. Qing uses watercolor, colored pencil, and crayon to beautifully recreate NYC's Chinatown neighborhood. Filled with warmth and details of city life, this story about a working-class family is one readers can return to again and again.

Episode Transcript:


Matthew: Welcome to the Children’s Book Podcast. I’m Matthew.

I am a teacher, a librarian, a writer, and a fan of kids. 

As children’s book authors, we are often looking back into our memories from childhood and drawing upon those memories for wisdom, insight, and inspiration. 

What memory of yours could you describe so clearly, it’s as if you are back in those velcro shoes, standing no taller than a kitchen counter, walking about your spaces and taking in the bits and pieces that would inform how you see the world today?

Today I’m excited to welcome Qing Zhuang to the podcast. Qing is the author and illustrator of Rainbow Shopping, which pulls from her experiences growing up as a child in New York City after immigrating to the country from China.

Before we get started, let me share a few words about the The 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge! 

Picture book authors need to be prolific to get published. That's why members of 12 x 12 aim to write one picture book draft a month. With a private Forum, monthly webinars, a thriving Facebook group and more, members enjoy the support of a welcoming community of authors and illustrators while working toward their publishing goals. Registration is only open until the end of February. 

I cannot wait to read your stories. I cannot wait to welcome them into our library and our storytimes.

Visit for more information.

Qing Zhuang is the author and illustrator of Rainbow Shopping, a heartfelt tribute to Chinatown and spending days-off together in which sharing a delicious meal helps a child feel loved. Rainbow Shopping is published by Holiday House.

Let’s step into my conversation with Qing Zhuang. Ready? Here we go.


Qing: Hi, my name is Qing Zhuang, and I am the author and illustrator of Rainbow Shopping. I am also an elementary and middle school art teacher in New York City. 

Matthew: I want to talk to you about grocery store shopping. I have such a strong prediction that we're going to talk a lot about your family, but I, it just is because your book feels personal to me. So we'll, we'll see whatever.I don't know your answers, so we'll see. 

Qing, I want to ask you first, who goes to the grocery store most often in your family today? And, and who went when you were a child and are those experiences the same different? Um, I, I would just love to know. What grocery shop, just general, what do grocery shopping habits look like for you and your family?

Qing: Matthew, your prediction is right. This book is based on my childhood growing up in New York as a young immigrant from China. My parents were very busy, so any time we spent together, I was accompanying them on errands, and often it was grocery shopping with my mom. And, you know, just spending time with her was, was pretty special.

Matthew: I can imagine, especially because in, in the book, as you're depicting it, it's, it's a pretty big event. It's not like, well, I mean, even when I take my kids grocery shopping, it's. We have to drive there. There's like a couple of places we have to stop. We sort of have a ritual of where we go through the aisles and what we get and all those things.

It's, it's a whole thing. It's, and it is, I think, a special time together. So I'm with you on that. My kids love Julia. My seven or eight year old loves when she gets to, when she goes to the grocery store with me, because it means she gets to. Pick out her gummies. Very much like in your book. It's, I get to pick out one or two bags of gummies, daddy.

And I'm like, all right, slow down, pump the brakes. Qing, what are some of your favorite things to get from the grocery store? 

Qing: Oh, I love anything matcha flavored. I'm obsessed with matcha Kit Kats at the moment, and just, you know, all types of vegetables. I've grown to really like bitter melon, which I, um, which I have villainized in this book, but I've grown to really like bitter melon as well.

Matthew: Our organic market will We'll rotate what they have in season, obviously because they're based on the season, but, but we've seen, uh, bitter melon in our store before. We've seen dragon fruit is coming back in and there's different things that come in and out where it's, I wouldn't have normally seen that at the grocery store that I used to go to.

And now since raising these kids in, in this grocery store, it's been really nice to, to have those things. And my kids, uh, my daughter in particular. gets really excited when they have, this is a very short window of time, but when they have pinata apples. in season. You have pinata apples. The bigger, really sweet, really like, it's just, it's a really nice apple.

It sort of, to me, feels like if you were to blend, I don't know, like a honey crisp with an opal. Oh, it's wonderful. My kids are so into apples though. And watQing when, you know, the different seasons go through. Oh, it's great. It's amazing.

Qing: All the amazing things that like, it's amazing. All the things that come, let me say that again.

It's amazing all the things that grow out of this earth. Right? I agree. Even though the grocery store can feel kind of like sterile and it's, uh, it's almost like, you know, going to the doctor's office or something sometimes, but it's like, we really think about it. All these things came out of the earth.

It's really cool. 

Matthew: Well, and I would even push back on. How that grocery store feels, because I think that probably depends on where you go. That's right. That's right. Our kids, um, were born with all sorts of food allergies and I have food allergies as well. So we made the choice that that's where we were going to invest our, our, our, our money was in let's make sure that they are eating good, clean, healthy foods, because, and safe foods that are clearly wrapped and packaged in a safe way, um, so that we know that things aren't getting cross contaminated and whatever. And, um, because of that, we've been going to the same grocery store since Jonah was born. So like 12 years. And. There are people that know us. I think about Miss Trina, who knows us and checks in and, Oh, Jonah's with you today, Jonah, what's going on?

You're so, so much taller. It's that sort of, um, it's an extension that, that place in your community is an extension of your family. And I don't know what your experience was like going shopping with your mom, but I know that I can tell from reading Rainbow Shopping that, that doing that errand and probably other errands felt inseparable from your relationship with your mom. That was something you did together. 

Qing: That's right. And, and, you know, grocery stores are so personal too, and it ties in with your family and what they've been eating possibly for generations. Or maybe it's the choice that you've made now, like you said, uh, you know, to, to suit your children's dietary needs.

It's, it's. It actually is very personal, right? And so when I look back on all those trips, I, when I think about my mom, I think about those trips and we've done them like hundreds and hundreds of times. 

Matthew: You're right. You've gotten your reps in on grocery shopping. Your mom prepared you to be an independent grocery shopper.

Hey Qing, what kind of reader or readers did you have in mind when you wrote Rainbow Shopping? It might've just been because In this way, the story is sort of semi autobiographical that you were just tapping back into your own childhood, or maybe, maybe you had other kids in mind. I just wonder, um, when there were, when there was an audience that was coming to mind, who were they?

Qing: I honestly, I don't think I had any particular reader in mind and like, like I said, I, it just rolled from such a personal place and it was my way of seeing like, who else connects with, with anything in this book, you know? Like, I, I did know what I wanted to show. I wanted to show a working class family, an immigrant family.

I wanted to show a child waking up feeling kind of sad and lonely. and disconnected from her family and her new home, um, and I wanted to show just like a Chinese American kid going about her day, um, just a, just a normal, normal day, you know, no holiday or anything like that. And, you know, I suppose if there is one type of audience, it would be a child who has ever felt the blues, just woken up and feeling like not quite right.

And, and, you know. And sometimes a day that starts off that way can sometimes end in a, and in a, in a pleasant way. Um, so, so that's kind of like, uh, kind of the message that, uh, I, I wanted to put in the book.

Matthew:  Oh, that carries so naturally into the next question I have. And oh my word, you're making me think of Maya Angelou and I did not expect this.

Do you know that wonderful Maya Angelou quote where she talks about Being a rainbow in somebody's cloudy day. Have you ever heard that? 

I might be slightly changing the way she said it, but I, as you're talking about just having this sort of cloudy moody day, I wanted to ask you about. All of these hidden rainbows because intentional or not, I started seeing them everywhere, uh, behind the person in the subway, the, um, the papayas, you could see the rainbow and then there were just all of these, there were these moments to me that just felt like there were rainbows in this cloudy, cloudy day until we get to the very end where the little girl has drawn the actual literal rainbow rain.

So I, I just wanted to ask you what your feelings or thoughts are. when you think about rainbows. Because also, if I can call it out, it's not like this book is about we're going shopping for the rainbow and here's the red things and here's the yellow things. You, you don't do that. You make just a beautiful, this is just our day together.

We're letting you come in with, come shopping with us and then we leave. Um, so I, I would love to know, I don't know. I just love to know your thoughts and feelings on rainbows. 

Qing: I love that question, and actually the first version of Rainbow Shopping was about, you know, the colors you see at the grocery store.

So like, red strawberries, yellow bananas, that kind of thing. That's why it was called Rainbow Shopping. But as I wrote more drafts, I realized the story I really wanted to tell is more personal than that. The rainbow began to stand for a feeling of well being, safety, and connection the girl feels at the end of the book.

The feeling that everything is going to be okay. I wrote Rainbow Shopping at the beginning of the pandemic when I was worried about my family all the time, like a lot of people, you know, I wanted so badly for things to feel safe again, to go out and feel, and I keep using this word, but connected to everyone.

So writing this book was my way of saying something positive and optimistic to the world in my own little way. And, you know, now that we're sort of at the end of fighting COVID 19, it does feel like the rain has subsided a bit and the rainbow is starting to appear. 

Matthew: Oh, I love that sentiment. You, we're just, some days the question scaffold even smoother than others.

And I feel like you're just setting me up one for the next. Your dedication, Qing, for mom, who kept me safe, rain or shine. It's a baby bamboo that I only now realize is that you have a five month old baby. Only now am I realizing that I will do the same for you. Could you talk briefly about that dedication, what, I guess what it meant for you to, to include that, to put that there? 

Qing: Yeah, I mean, I dedicated the book to my mom and my daughter. I just had my baby, baby girl. And when I look at her, I feel such a strong sense of responsibility to take care of her. I think about how safe and warm my mom always made me feel, made me feel, even just the way she held her umbrella over me in the rain, you know, just making sure I'm safe and dry. Uh, I just felt so loved. Even though it was such a simple gesture, I just really want to make sure my daughter feel that same sense of warmth and safety. 

Matthew: Oh my goodness, so this combination, you've got pandemic, you have your pregnancy bringing you into motherhood, parenthood.

You have making this book and reflecting on your mom. You've got so much culminating to make this book. just what it, what it came out to be. I mean, imagine, just imagine making this book at any other time in your life. It wouldn't have been what it is. It's so wonderful. I love that. Oh, well, um, you're just catQing me off guard.

All of these details that I didn't know that are just. It's really wonderful. It's really wonderful. Um, I love that you are able to, it, it, at least on, uh, on our conversation right now, you're able to reflect, reflect so quickly on the, uh, presence your mom, any of your family members, but today we're talking about your mom had on, on your emotional wellbeing and really on your, um, on your ability to, to communicate emotion and understand emotion, that literacy of emotion.

I think that's a really important thing. And I can do that with my own family, but I, I recognize that it takes me effort to do that. So it just is something I'm noticing you talk about here that, that feels really special. Holding that umbrella over you as a way of pairing and taking you with her and shopping with you and doing these hundreds of visits.

It's really nice. 

Qing: You know, As a new mom, I sometimes worry, you know, am I going to be able to take her on all these vacations and sign her up for all these classes, but at the end of the day, uh, the most important things are those simple things, just feeling like someone sees you and cares about you, and I try to remember that as I raise my little baby girl.

Matthew: Well, it sounds like you're already not just on the right track, but you're, you're way far ahead of all of us. It's terrific. Um, I would love before we go, if you could please share a page or passage from Rainbow Shopping, really anything that you care to share to give the readers or listeners a sense of the story, but if it's a connection to your childhood or if it's a, something you're just really proud of the way it works, whatever it is, uh, you share what feels right on your heart. But, um, yeah, I'd love for you to share if you don't mind. Oh, 

Qing: of course not. Um, my favorite scenes are the scenes, um, in the subway station and in the subway train.

So here the, in the illustration, the mom and the daughter, daughter are going down the subway stairs and it says, I help carry the groceries to the subway station. The subway lamps shine like emeralds guiding our way. I hear the train coming and my tummy rumbles along, one more hour till home, and then the next page is a silent spread, a wordless spread, of, uh, all types of New Yorkers sitting inside this train on this rainy day.

And it's my favorite spread because of a couple of reasons. One, I, I just have such a love, such lovely memories of sleeping on my mom's lap on the subway after those trips. And I feel like rainy days in New York are so special because New York is so diverse and everyone's. You know, everyone is thinking about their own worlds, but when it rains, everyone is sort of like sharing this really gross moment together.

And there's something really kind of special about that. Everyone's just like be draggled and wet. They can't wait to go home, but we're sharing this. moment together on this train. Um, and another reason I love this spread is because I have a lot of easter eggs hidden in here. So one of the little details, um, you mentioned it's the rainbow on the subway ad.

It's actually, um, only adults would know this. reference, but there used to be this guy named Dr. Zismore who would plaster his ads all over the subway. He's a, he's a dermatologist. And, um, and then a detail that kids would enjoy is there's a little dog who is wearing a New York coffee cup as a baby, as a doggy bjorn.

So, um, you'll, you'll have to get the book to look for all the details.

Matthew: That's so terrific that you hid those lovely things in there. That's great. Uh, well, um, this has been terrific. Qing, is there any, there doesn't have to be, but is there anything else that I didn't ask you that you want to make sure we talk about with this book or, or anything else? 

Qing: Oh, just, just a quick note that, um, if you go on my website,, you will find a free coloring sheet and a craft, crafts activity that goes with the book. 

Matthew: That's perfect. Well then, uh, I'll close as I do all the episodes by asking you that I'll see a library full of children tomorrow morning. Is there a message that I can bring to them from you? 

Qing: Oh, that is such a sweet question.You know, just be kind and gentle to yourself and to others. Try new foods. There's so many different types of foods and flavors. It's one of the awesome things about being alive on this planet. 


Matthew: Thank you to Qing Zhuang for joining me on The Children’s Book Podcast. 

You can pick up your own copy of Rainbow Shopping wherever books are found. Consider supporting independent bookstores by shopping through You can also use my affiliate link by clicking on the book’s name in our show notes.

Our podcast logo was created by Duke Stebbins ( 

Our music is by Podington Bear. 

Podcast hosting by Libsyn. 

You can support the show and buy me a coffee at

Don’t forget to check out the Reading Culture Podcast with Jordan Bookey, from Beanstack, if you are a fellow teacher or librarian. It’s the perfect podcast to explore building a stronger culture of reading in our communities. It’s available wherever podcasts are found.

And on that note…

Be well. And read on.

End Of Episode

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