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NIGHT MARKET RESCUE Review+ Q&A with Author and Illustrator

Note: Thank you to the publisher of NIGHT MARKET RESCUE for a review copy. All opinions are my own.

Night Market Rescue Cover Final

When in Taiwan, one of the must-see things to do is to visit its famous night markets. Night markets are lively street markets that open in the evenings. Filled with stalls of delicious food & drinks, souvenirs, accessories, and more, night markets have become an important fixture in Taiwan.

A new picture book, NIGHT MARKET RESCUE [Rocky Pond Books], captures the festive atmosphere of these markets set against a story of a lost child and a stray dog. Written by Charlotte Cheng and illustrated by Amber Ren, NIGHT MARKET RESCUE launches on May 2, 2023, and is available for pre-order.

Description from Amazon:

A stray dog stumbles upon the gift of friendship — and maybe even the promise of home — while wandering the delight-filled night market in Taipei.

While resting on a stoop, GoGo smells something sweet and spicy on the breeze. It leads him to a place he’s never been—a bustling night market where vendors sell delicious treats. As he wanders, sniffing for scraps, GoGo discovers something else as well: a little girl who has gotten separated from her parents. He knows he can help and guides her through the market . . . to where her worried parents wait for her—with open arms for their daughter and GoGo, their new pet!

Bicultural Mama had an opportunity to interview the talented author and illustrator of this book. Read on to learn what inspired this story as well as the process behind publishing this book.

Q&A with Charlotte Cheng, Author

Charlotte Cheng
Charlotte Cheng [Photo credit: Airecel Iris Brady]
Bicultural Mama (BM): What is the book about and what inspired you to write it?

CC: My book is Night Market Rescue, illustrated by the talented Amber Ren. My family comes from Taiwan, and although I was born in the US, we made trips back to Taipei as often as we could to visit family.

Each time we visited, my parents brought me to famous Taiwanese night markets so I could soak in the tastes and joys of their childhood. To this day, I can still recall the smells of sizzling sausage and the sights of colorful goods. I wanted to share these fond memories with others and chose to do so by writing Night Market Rescue!

BM: Is this your debut book? If not, what other books have you written?

CC: This is my first traditionally published book and it’s been a joy working with the Rocky Pond Books and Penguin teams. For my debut book, I could not have asked for a better publishing experience!

I’ve written books in the past through independent publishers. This includes BoBo Loves Dumplings and BoBo’s Colorful Chinese New Year, which are both bilingual board books featuring an adorable red panda. I’ve also illustrated books in the past, including the award-winning book called A Moment in Time

Outside of children’s books, I’m a curriculum developer and have authored curriculum content both in print and online. I currently lead the curriculum team at CodeCombat, where we make video games that teach kids how to code. I think my curriculum background has greatly allowed me to develop stories that appeal to children, parents, and teachers in different ways!

Illustration from NIGHT MARKET RESCUE

BM: What was the process like for you to get the book published? 

CC: Publishing Night Market Rescue was over a ten-year journey! I submitted the first draft of my story to the Lee & Low Books New Voices Award in 2011. Although I didn’t win the award, an editor wrote a multipage letter full of detailed feedback and encouraged me to continue working on the story. That drove me to continually iterate on Night Market Rescue throughout the years.

I tried writing it in rhyme, without rhyme, and then with rhyme again. At first, the story featured a girl and her mother. Agents seemed interested in the book but they eventually all said the story was too quiet. Years passed and even though I would work on other books, the night market story kept calling to me. 

Then, one day, I found out that some street dogs often rely on night markets to survive. I realized it would be more unique to explore a night market through the eyes of a street dog, and my manuscript completely changed! I began submitting my story again and it was eventually picked up by my agent, Karen Grencik from Red Fox Literary. I met her over ten years ago at a writers conference, and she had seen a few previous versions of Night Market Rescue but fell in love with my new version.

When Karen submitted the manuscript to editors, I thought it would take a while to get acquired. Instead, the acquisition happened within the span of two months! Lauri Hornik, the President of Rocky Pond Books, a new imprint at Penguin, is a dog lover herself and we immediately hit it off. We are now publishing over four books together! 

BM: What level of interaction did you and the illustrator have during the process?

CC: As per tradition, I didn’t communicate directly with the illustrator. Instead, the Rocky Pond Team would share Amber Ren’s work with me during each stage of the illustration process, from character design to pencil sketches to full-color images. Then I would give the editor and art director my thoughts and suggestions.

They then consolidated my feedback with theirs before sending it to Amber. I really liked this process as it was very collaborative, and it ensured that Amber always received clear and well-organized feedback.

The author’s real-life dog and inspiration for the dog illustrated in NIGHT MARKET RESCUE. [Photo credit: Charlotte Cheng]
One part of the experience was quite unique to Night Market Rescue. My family had actually rescued a street dog from Taiwan, and we had visited Taipei, taking photos of night markets from the perspective of a dog. I gave Amber a folder full of photos of our dog Waldo along with the night market images we took. This basically gave her an entire library of reference photos that she used to illustrate Night Market Rescue.

Even my parents were pulled into the process and gave feedback on all of the night market vendor signs! I greatly admire how Amber was able to incorporate all of these ideas and perspectives to create the lively and vibrant illustrations that now exist in Night Market Rescue.

BM: What was your initial reaction to the cover?

CC: I was speechless. I sat at my computer and just stared at the image for a full minute. I couldn’t believe that my ten-year dream had come true. The book design was gorgeous and the title seemed to sparkle. I love how the cover manages to feature GoGo, the main character, along with the immersive feeling of the night market. I was able to see images of Night Market Rescue featured at various conferences and it seems to pop from the shelf. So excited to see this book in stores and libraries!

BM: Do you have other books or projects coming up?

CC: I actually have several books coming out over the next few years! In 2024, Roar Choo, illustrated by Dan Santat, will be published by Rocky Pond Books. It’s a story of how a dragon recovers from a cold with the help of a phoenix friend. In the same year, A Name for Sister, illustrated by Sophie Diao, will be published by HarperCollins. It’s a magical new sister story inspired by a centuries-old naming tradition from China.

In 2025, Rocky Pond Books will also publish two more of my stories: I Miss You Most (2025) illustrated by Xindi Yan, and Icy Fruit (2025) illustrated by Vivian Mineker. Both of these books are inspired by my two grandfathers. You can sign up for my newsletter or follow me on social media to stay updated about these books.

Charlotte Cheng Headshot
Charlotte Cheng [Photo credit: Charlotte Cheng]

Charlotte has written and illustrated a variety of books including Explore China: A Mulan Discovery Book and BoBo Loves Dumplings. With over 20 years of EdTech experience, Charlotte has also written and published K-12 curriculum for a variety of companies including CodeCombat, Disney, and Wonder Workshop. You can learn more about Charlotte’s work at www.charlotte.art. You can also find her on Instagram @charlottemakesbooks or Twitter @charlottedraws.

Q&A with Amber Ren, Illustrator

Amber Ren Headshot
Illustrator Amber Ren [Photo credit: Mike Ren]
Bicultural Mama (BM): What was the process like for you to get connected with the author’s manuscript?

Amber Ren (AR): I received an email from my agent Jen about a potential project from Dial Books. When I read the text, I instantly felt that I had to work on it.

BM: What made you say “yes” to the story?

AR: The story of a little girl getting lost and then finding an unexpected friend was so heartwarming. I also grew up with a dog and she was my best friend during a time when I felt lost and alone. I felt an immediate connection to the story. I also always wanted to visit Taiwan and sample all the delicious food at their night markets. So this was very fun for me to research as well. One day I will visit and eat all the food!

Night Market Rescue final interior_gogo_Page_03
Illustration from NIGHT MARKET RESCUE

BM: Is this your debut book? If not, what other books have you illustrated?

AR: This is going to be my 6th picture book. Previously I’ve illustrated Because by Mo Willems, Looking for a Jumbie by Tracey Baptiste, two Little Golden Books by Danna Smith, and Bake Infinite Pie with X+Y by Eugenia Cheng.

Night Market Rescue book cover sketches
Book cover sketches [Image credit: Amber Ren]
BM: Can you tell us about the process of illustrating the cover?

AR: First I drew a couple of thumbnail sketches. I played around with the idea of GoGo exploring the night market alone surrounded by all the activity. I also had an idea of GoGo and the little girl meeting for the first time. In the end, we chose the third sketch because we liked the perspective of the lanterns. After that was decided, I cleaned up the sketch, did the color, and added more glow to make the cover look extra magical.

BM: What do you love most about how the cover turned out? 

AR: I am pleased with the way that the color illuminated. One thing that really stood out to me when I researched the Taiwanese Night Market was how all the lights made everything come alive. And I really wanted to capture that energy in my cover. I hope I did it justice.

NIGHT MARKET RESCUE book cover sketch
Book cover sketch [Image credit: Amber Ren]
BM: Do you have other books or projects coming up?

AR: Yes. I am currently working on The Star in You by Katrina Moore (Fall 2024), Becoming Boba by Joanna Ho (Fall 2024), and A Year of Kites by Monisha Bajaj (Winter 2025).


AR: Amber is a New York Times bestselling illustrator and a visual development artist in the animation industry. She earned her BFA in Character Animation at the California Institute of the Arts. Amber’s work is inspired by her love for folk art, nostalgia, inclusion, and her childhood spent in China. When not drawing at her desk, Amber can be found petting her cat, Ruyu, and sipping boba tea. Visit her website amber-ren.com and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Where to Purchase the Book

NIGHT MARKET RESCUE is available on Amazon (Hardcover, Kindle) as well as other online and in-store booksellers.

 Hardcover       ~      Kindle     

Enter the NIGHT MARKET RESCUE Giveaway – 3 Winners! [CLOSED]

Three (3) lucky readers will win a copy of NIGHT MARKET RESCUE [Rocky Pond Books] via this giveaway hosted by Bicultural Mama. Please enter via the entry form below. This giveaway is open to entrants ages 18+ years old with a U.S. mailing address (no P.O. Boxes). Good luck!

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