In her first picture book as author and illustrator, Qing Zhuang invites readers on a colorful, immersive shopping trip in New York City’s Chinatown neighborhood.
As Rainbow Shopping opens, a young girl is feeling as gloomy as the gray, rainy weather outside her window. She has nestled herself under a blanket on her bed, a tin of crayons by her side as she draws in a notebook. The girl’s family recently emigrated from China, and her parents and grandmother always seem to be working, as busy as the city itself. But her mom has a plan for today, one that involves both comfort and connection.
Mom’s remedy is a journey to Chinatown to buy ingredients for a family dinner. When the pair arrive at the market, Zhuang’s palette brightens visibly as mother and daughter shop and enjoy their time together. As Mom selects fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, she shares wisdom and tenderness with her daughter. “Bamboo plants are flexible and strong, surviving the toughest storms,” she says as she shops for produce. The girl’s responses are often feisty, as when she tries to convince her mom to let her buy an armful of candy. (“Mom says I only get to keep one bag,” the girl reveals. “I think she must have eaten too many bitter melons in her life.”)
When the two return home, Dad makes a delicious meal for the family and reveals secrets of his “kitchen kung fu,” such as cutting bitter melon thinly to reduce its bitterness. Everyone gathers around the table after a long week, sharing not only the food but also the girl’s drawings and stories of their family’s past. As the rain continues to pour and the girl slips into sleep, she dreams of walking with her family “in rainbow rain.”
Zhuang’s artwork is as warm and inviting as her story. Her watercolor, crayon and colored pencil illustrations burst with detail, allowing for new discoveries with each read. A wordless spread of the subway ride home reveals a small dog strapped to its owner’s chest, a brown paper bag labeled Trader Moe’s and a commuter in lime-green Crocs.
Sweet, fun and spunky, Rainbow Shopping is a beautiful, touching portrait of a family’s love for one another.