Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 14, 2023

Book Giveaway: IT’S BOBA TIME FOR PEARL LI! by Nicole Chen

Today we have Nicole Cheng and her debut middle grade book, IT’S BOBA TIME FOR PEARL LI! published by Quill Tree Books. I included the first few paragraphs, so you could see how smoothly written and inviting this book is. Nicole has agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

Just leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Let me know other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Nicole.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments By Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!


Perfect for fans of Kelly Yang and Jessica Kim, this joyful, moving middle-grade contemporary standalone debut novel follows a big-hearted Taiwanese American girl as she aims to gain her family’s acceptance and save her favorite boba tea shop by selling her handcrafted amigurumi dolls.

Pearl Li is ready to spend the summer before seventh grade hanging out with her two best friends, crocheting the cutest amigurumi dolls, and frequenting her favorite tea shop, Boba Time. Its quirky owner, Auntie Cha, is the only adult Pearl can confide in about her art—if only her tech-obsessed family would understand her love of crafts! After Pearl learns of Boba Time’s financial troubles, she decides to sell her amigurumi to raise money for the shop. But as she navigates the ups and downs of running a business, Pearl realizes that monetizing her passion is more complicated than she could’ve ever imagined. Will she be able to stop Boba Time from closing and prove to her parents that her passion for crochet is worthy and serious?

A heartfelt story about advocating for one’s passions and uncovering big truths about friendship, family, and entrepreneurship along the way. Featuring fun backmatter, including a delicious boba tea recipe!


I talked about my overall journey into writing books for kids in my interview about my debut picture book, HOW WE SAY I LOVE YOU, but what prompted me to expand beyond picture books and try my hand at writing middle grade was two things:

First, it was my agent who planted the seed that I could (and should!) explore other formats of storytelling besides picture books. I had shown her a couple of picture book and chapter book manuscripts, and after we discussed what was working and what wasn’t, she gently encouraged me to explore longer format writing. She suggested that the themes around identity and pride that I wanted to explore could be more appropriately addressed and nuanced in stories for older kids, which made sense. I wasn’t so sure, though, so I picked up a few recently published middle grade books to get a feel for what middle grade kids were reading today and what publishers might be looking for.

And wow, oh wow! I read middle grade books featuring strong characters of color, like Jessica Kim’s STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG!, Kelly Yang’s FRONT DESK, Janae Mark’s FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON. From page one, I was so impressed by how wonderfully optimistic, culturally relevant, and both bold and nuanced these stories, characters, and themes were. They were the books I didn’t know I craved when I was a young child, and knowing these books existed now gave me confidence that there was room for the type of books I could write, featuring fun and relatable Taiwanese American characters with a purpose/mission.

So I decided I wanted to try writing a middle grade novel. I sat down and started thinking about plots (I’m very much a plotter, not a pantser!). I grew up in Silicon Valley, went to college here, and now work in user experience design, which means I’ve always been surrounded by technology and innovation. But I also love making things, from ceramics to sketching to letterpress and printmaking, and have always envied those creative entrepreneurs who make and sell their goods. And so I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of technology, craft, and entrepreneurship, which made it a very natural theme to write about in BOBA TIME. And of course, being Taiwanese American and having a sweet tooth, I just had to bring Taiwanese desserts and boba tea into the story (although I grew up calling it pearl milk tea!)

IT’S BOBA TIME FOR PEARL LI! is also a story about family and friendship, about how these relationships need to be nurtured and we have to keep working on keeping them strong, especially as they change and shift and evolve as we explore different interests and facets of our identities. I wanted to build those themes in the book too, and I hope every reader can relate to that feeling of wanting to hold onto those important relationships, yet also learn when to flex and make room for each other so we can grow and make those relationships really last.

I loved reading as a child, but I didn’t get to see myself much in the books we had available to us at the time. And now, I’m so delighted by the fact that there are more and more Asian American protagonists in children’s literature today, and that with IT’S BOBA TIME FOR PEARL LI!, I have contributed to that change in children’s literature. I hope to continue writing about and featuring joyful, relatable Asian American characters who anyone, regardless of their background, will fall in love with and see parts of themselves in. I want people to see that we belong here, as legitimate Americans, who live our lives much like everyone else. I hope I have the opportunity to continue highlighting our stories and experiences with the books I write for the kids growing up today!

Below are a couple of paragraphs to read.


Storytelling is what I do. During the day, I work as a product researcher, which means my job is to listen to people tell me about their lives, needs, and relationships with brands, businesses, and products. Then I translate what they tell me into stories that help the companies I work for design and develop delightful and useful experiences.

Nicole lives in sunny California with her Andorran husband and young daughter. Her experience growing up Taiwanese American in the Bay Area, plus the blend of Catalan, Spanish, Taiwanese and American influences in her home, energize her to tell stories that reflect a diverse and multicultural American identity.

Nicole’s debut picture book, HOW WE SAY I LOVE YOU, illustrated by Lenny Wen and published by Knopf BFYR, releases December 13, 2022, and her debut middle grade novel, IT’S BOBA TIME FOR PEARL LI!, from Quill Tree/Harper Collins, releases February 28, 2023. She was chosen as a 2022 mentee for Diverse Voices’ DVdebut program, and was honored with SCBWI’s Out from the Margins Award in October 2022.

To learn more about Nicole, visit

Nicole, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I have read the first four chapters of the book. Thank you for giving us this cute story about kind hearted American girl and the Li household. I getting and glimpse of other cultures and Pearl threw me right into Taiwanese and Mandarian culture. I learn so much about the food and added a new word my vocabulary – Amigurumi, which is essentially the same as crochet, but is specifically used for the process of making 3D toys. I love that Pearl is so creative. Above is a picture of the amigurumi hotdog Pearl created in the book. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I love this concept so much! I feel like most girls and women I know are skilled in and enjoy some kind of fiber arts (embroidery for me!) but that it’s almost always depicted as uncool and old fashioned in books. A crafty modern girl heroine is so cool!


  2. I have had this book on my TBR since I first heard about it. I enjoy reading books that feature clever, intelligent heroines. I’m an email subscriber and shared on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and tumblr.


  3. Oooh! I’ll have to get this one! It looks fantastic. Way to go! Congrats!


  4. I’m intrigued!

    And, yes, I’m a blog subscriber.


  5. I liked Front Desk as well. I can’t wait to read your new book. Congratulations!


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