Thursday, April 18, 2024

Q&A with Charlotte Cheng




Charlotte Cheng is the author of the new children's picture book Roar-Choo!. Her other books include Night Market Rescue. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Q: What inspired you to write Roar-Choo!?


A: During my childhood in Los Angeles, frequenting Chinese restaurants was a norm. Among these dining spots, one memory stands out vividly: a grand mural portraying a golden Dragon and Phoenix in an intricate dance, spanning an entire wall.


Their symbiotic presence fascinated me, prompting inquiries to my parents, who elaborated on the mythical bond between the two. The Dragon symbolized strength and bravery, while the Phoenix embodied grace and generosity, their disparities weaving into a harmonious unity.


Years later, amidst the unfortunate ordeal of my entire family contracting COVID simultaneously, contrasting recoveries highlighted the essence of this mythical tale.


Reflecting upon our experiences, I realized my recovery mirrored that of the Dragon—I pushed myself relentlessly, attempting to swiftly return to normalcy, only to suffer setbacks. Conversely, my husband embraced his recovery with grace, encouraging me to pace myself.


Ultimately, our respective strengths became pillars upon which our family leaned to navigate through the challenges of the virus. 


Contemplating the havoc a mere cold could wreak when embodied by a Dragon, juxtaposed with the potential healing fostered through a friendship akin to that of the Phoenix, resonated deeply.


It struck me as a narrative both children and parents could identify with as families confront various illnesses and adversities, relying on each other's strengths to persevere.


Q: How would you describe the relationship between Dragon and Phoenix?


A: As I researched legends about the Dragon and Phoenix, I discovered that ancient Chinese emperors were often represented by the symbol of the dragon and empresses were often represented by the symbol of the phoenix.


It's because the Dragon is traditionally considered masculine, with a focus more on strength, bravery, and passion. Phoenix, on the other hand, is more traditionally feminine, with a focus more on grace, kindness, and flexibility.


As I mentioned before, I myself am often more of a Dragon while my husband is more of a Phoenix. Because of this, I chose to write the story without pronouns so that anyone, no matter their personalities, can see themselves in the relationship of these two characters.

Q: What do you think Dan Santat's illustrations add to the book?


A: I knew he would create gorgeous illustrations to pair well with the story. Each spread in Roar-Choo! is so dynamic. It feels like Dragon and Phoenix are about to burst from the page.


Dan used so many different layouts and perspectives that the book feels cinematic. Most importantly, I love how Dan managed to capture the complex relationship between Dragon and Phoenix.


Even the color choices reflect this. Dragon is green and Phoenix is red. Red and green are complementary colors – which mirrors how the personalities of Dragon and Phoenix complement each other!


Q: The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books said of the book that “the sweet ending makes a useful reminder that sometimes acceptance, rest, and time are the best prescriptions.” What do you think of that description?


A: I love pattern and repetition in storytelling as it appeals to children (and myself). In the beginning, Dragon has the cold and is the only one who says “Roar-CHOO!” over and over again. Each time, the phrase gets louder and louder. However, halfway through the story, when Phoenix has the cold, the two characters begin to share the phrase.


My favorite spread is, in fact, the “sweet ending.” It’s when Dragon and Phoenix are finally able to stop and recover together. Then the phrase “roar. . choo” becomes softer and takes on a different meaning – one that speaks of self-care and tenderness towards someone you love.


I think we’re all more naturally able to help others when they’re in need and often forget to take care of ourselves. This is especially true when it comes to parents. I have a 5-year-old daughter and I often forget that it’s important to slow down. That’s because when I’m a happy and healthy parent, my daughter is often more happy and healthy as well!


I hope this story helps families start conversations about self-care and how, as a family, they can find ways to take care of each other.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I actually have two books coming out in 2024. Roar-Choo! is available in April 2024.


My next book, I Miss You Most, illustrated by Xindi Yan, will be available in August 2024. This story deals with the loss of a beloved grandfather and how a girl finds comfort in the memories that he leaves behind.


In 2025, Rocky Pond Books will also publish two more of my stories. One is called Ama’s Purse, again illustrated by Xindi Yan, which is a bit of a continuation of I Miss You Most. In this book, a little girl discovers the magic inside her grandmother’s purse.


The other, Icy Fruit, is illustrated by Vivian Mineker. It follows the story of my paternal grandfather, who started a popsicle company in Taiwan.


Finally, I have a book coming out with Harper Kids called A Name for Sister, illustrated by Sophia Diao. It’s a magical new sister story inspired by a centuries-old naming tradition from China.


You can sign up for my newsletter or follow me on social media to stay updated about these books:


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I hope you enjoy Roar-Choo! It is dedicated to my husband, Brian, who is constantly the Dragon to my Phoenix and the Phoenix to my Dragon. By complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we’re able to tackle dragon-sized problems and take on epic adventures of our own.


May this story inspire you to seek self-care when you need it. May you also find complementary partnerships with the friends and loved ones in your life!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. This post is in partnership with Charlotte Cheng. Enter the giveaway for the chance to win a copy of Charlotte Cheng’s captivating book, Night Market Rescue, a $100 visa gift card, and a free 30 minute children’s book writing consultation.

No comments:

Post a Comment