Cover Image: It’s Boba Time for Pearl Li!

It’s Boba Time for Pearl Li!

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"It's Boba Time for Pearl Li!" by Nicole Chen is an adorable middle grade book featuring multiple Asian ethnicities -- including, but not limited to, Taiwanese, Chinese, and Indian. We follow our protagonist Pearl Li, a young Taiwanese- American girl, who is a creative type born into a family techies that continually look down upon her passion for amigurumi: a form of Japanese plushies made through crocheting techniques. When Pearl's favorite boba shop threatens to go under, Pearl decides to sell her amigurumi to help with replacing their refrigerator and delay their closing. However, this process involves her sneaking behind her parents' back and potentially losing her friends in the process -- but, will it be worth it to keep the only place where Pearl Li feels like she truly belongs?

"It's Boba Time for Pearl Li!" is a beautiful coming-of-age book about culture, the trials of friendship, and belonging that speaks to the Asian diaspora. I really enjoyed the complicated, but relatable, family dynamics in this books -- the conflicts and how they come to understand one another. This book connects Elders with their budding new community members, reminding us of where we have come from, what we have lost, and where we are headed.
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Pearl reminds me a lot of me. One person criticizes something I do, and before you know it, I figure everyone else will feel the same way. We love our safe spaces, and treasure the people who “get” us—sometimes too much.

Pearl’s safe place is Boba Time, and her safe person is Auntie Cha. Pearl doesn’t fit into her home of entrepreneur parents and a big sister who has coded an app that’s already on the market. She’d rather crochet cute amigurumi figures. But when she learns that Boba Time is in danger of closing, she, too, becomes an entrepreneur in an effort to purchase a new fridge.

Pearl has great friends who support her, but when they advise her to stop hiding what she’s doing from her parents, they argue. The rift between them is real, as is Pearl’s struggle to forge ahead on her own. She finds a surprising ally in her sister.

Of course, her parents don’t stay in the dark for long. The resolution comes when Pearl’s mother realizes just how alike they actually are, despite different interests. Pearl does reconcile with her friends, and they come up with a great solution—for themselves, and for Auntie Cha. They even make a new friend along the way—one of the “mean girls” who first criticized Pearl’s work.

I really like the way the relationships are portrayed. The parents, sister, friends, and supportive adult all are well-developed as characters with their own problems and hurts to deal with. The dialogue feels realistic as well.

Possible Objectionable Material:
Pearl deceives her parents. Friends argue.

Who Might Like This Book:
Those who like to see children working to solve problems—their own and those of others around them. Those who like multicultural stories.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

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A solid read. It has pretty good premise, and although there aren't many likable characters at first, eventually many will grow on you. Was it the best-executed story? No, but at least you will be satisfied by the end.

Pearl Li, a Taiwanese-American twelve-year-old has a passion for creating amigurumi dolls, which are Japanese crocheted dolls. She lives a pretty comfortable life, despite some tension at home and with a certain girl from school, Kendall. I'm glad she is someone who is proud and comfortable with her roots. However, she possesses a flaw that many children her age have, which is selfishness. You can see this side of her pretty early on in the story, and it irks me how oblivious she is about it even when it's revealed to her. I disliked how long it took to be addressed because, to no surprise, it leads to conflicts in her life, which in my opinion gets dragged on a bit too long. Although Pearl is a frustrating protagonist, you need to remember she is just a child. When things get eventually resolved, I'm just glad she was able to learn and grow from her mistakes.

Aside from Pearl, whom I'm not the biggest fan of, I believe the best characters in the story are Priya(Pearl's best friend) and Kendall. I felt that Priya was such a strong force within the story. She literally helped Pearl through so many things in her life, and it was a shame how she was treated sometimes by Pearl. Aside from that, I believe Priya is that one friend that everyone should have because she's outspoken on things that need to be said. Now, Kendall is someone you instantly dislike, but throughout the story you begin to soften up to her. She's that one kid that is part of the popular crowd that is quick to judge. However, as the story progresses and we begin to learn more about her family's circumstances. Through this, her development becomes quite apparent, even leaving Pearl confused.

Aside from the characters, the story itself was pretty good. Just seeing Pearl navigating her way through her amigurumi business was interesting. When she conquers one obstacle, she runs into another, which I'm sure runs true to any new business. Of course, there are further complications due to her age. I also like how the story shows how important communication is. Children, especially preteens/teens, struggle with communicating their true feelings to their parents. This whole situation that Pearl has going on is a perfect example of that. Another point I will like to appreciate is how culturally rich the story is. It's not too overwhelming and it's appreciated by many characters.

Overall, there are many lessons learned from our protagonist and many that are relatable to anyone. I'll say this is a perfect read for people of Pearl's demographic. Although there are aspects of this book that I disliked, this is still something I would recommend.

Overall rating: 3.5/5
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A great pick for fans of realistic fiction stories like The Vanderbeekers or The Penderwicks with strong themes of family, friendship, and identity. Pearl loves to create amigurumi - a Japanese style of tiny crocheted stuffed toys - but her business-minded techie mom doesn't seem to appreciate this hobby. Pearl finds a sense of belonging and appreciation from the local Boba tea shop owner. When she finds out the shop is having problems, she wants to use her talents to help. There's a lot of food for thought here about the challenges of Asian American (or any bi-cultural) kids growing up across two worlds and how to navigate cultural expectations and appreciation of traditions and inclusion of others. Warning this book might make you very hungry and thirsty due to the mouthwatering descriptions of Taiwanese snacks and drinks.
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This is a cute book with a good message that I think many kids would relate to.
Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for this digital arc in exchange for my honest review.
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I know I say this about pretty much every middle grade book I read these days, but oh my god, this book helped heal my inner child. Pearl is the driven, caring protagonist that a younger me could've looked up to. I'm so glad Asian American kids of today have so many more books with characters from our cultures.
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This is a super cute middle school book about a girl trying to safe her favorite place. Pearl is such a cute and determined character, kids are sure to love and resonate with her!
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Pearl really doesn't have anyone else in her life that supports her and her crocheting hobby as much as Auntie Cha. Having a safe space a the Boba Time shop is the only thing keeping Pearl from going crazy, but when she hears that there is a very real chance of  being closed, a panic like she's never felt before begins to erupt and disrupt her friendships, ability to crochet and her life! Will Pearl be able to find another safe space or will her world come crashing down? 

This book is so cute and I really love it! My big issue was there was a point where Pearl was leaving out her friend that didn't share the same ethnic background and spoke a language that she didn't understand ; leaving her out of conversations. She would brush it off saying that her friend wasn't really interested in the first place so it didn't really matter that she was being left out. That isn't the problem. What I was hoping for was for her friend to confront her or to have a moment that was centered on the resolution of this issue because this is something that children need to learn to have a diverse group of friends, but it was resolved "off screen"  which was rather irritating because I felt it was a large issue that needed the limelight or some attention. I WILL BE ADDING THIS TO MY COLLECTION.

Story: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Worldbuilding/Illustrations: 5/5 
Social emotional: 3/5
Thank you to Netgalley, Nicole Chen, HarperCollins Children's Books and Quill Tree Books for sending me a digital ARC in exchange for a honest review.
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Super fun story of friendship and finding yourself, sure to resonate with lots of middle grade readers.
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I’m so excited for this new wave of diverse middle grade fiction! I would have loved to read these books as a kid, and it’s incredibly important to see representation on the page. I also really loved how It’s Boba Time, Pearl Li does not focus on racism. Instead it’s about a normal American girl who is Taiwanese. It’s important to normalize MC of different ethnicities instead of shoving them into a box where their books can only be about racism.

    It’s Boba Time for Pearl Li is about a seventh grade girl who discovers her favorite boba shop is about to close. She’s determined to help the owner, Auntie Cha, and decides to start her own business and sell amigurumi dolls. But running a business is more complicated than she thought. What happens when her friend and family drama get in the way of saving the boba shop?

    I felt like Pearl was very relatable especially for middle school girls. She’s still trying to figure herself out and stand up for herself. She was also relatively selfish at times. I think that it was frustrating, but it also made sense for her age. She had to learn how to think about and consider others, and I loved watching her grow and mature. I think Chen did a great job of showing Pearl’s growth in her friendships and showing the importance of saying sorry when you mess up.

    I loved her friends! I love the diversity in their group and also I loved watching them learn how to interact. Friendships are so hard especially in middle school, but it was cool to see a solid group of girlfriends with no romance! Definitely a fan of romance, but I think in middle school friendships are more important. Pearl also had to learn how to deal with family relationships.

    I like learning about Pearl’s family and how different they all were. But I didn’t love how the family aspect was handled. Pearl ends up lying to her parents in the book, and in the end, her fault is glossed over. Chen focuses more on how her mother should have been more supportive of her crafts. I think there were definitely communication issues on both sides, but I would have liked to see equal responsibility taken from both sides. And it was odd to me how the dad in the story didn’t really have a role. He seemed to be there simply to be there, and while I admire the strong female relationships, I wanted to see his part in the family.

    However, I did enjoy seeing the different dynamics. It felt really real, and I think it showed the importance again of good communication. There were a lot of great lessons in this book including one about business and entrepreneurship. However, the lessons felt natural, and they weren’t shoved down your throat.

    I would definitely recommend this book to any tween girl! It’s a fun, clean, read about family, friends, and talking to your loved ones.


Strong female friendships

Sisterly bonds

Not judging others

Importance of communication

Racially diverse characters just going through life

Business/entrepreneurship lessons

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher through Netgalley. All views expressed are only my honest opinion, a positive review was not required.
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This was an adorable story with fantastic characters. The plot was exiting though it did drag on in a few places. I also felt like the details about food were a bit overdone. It's one thing to have one fabulous boba drink in a book (or even two to five of them) but when you're drinking and describing these in every single chapter it gets overwhelming. The same goes for the way characters were always smirking or laughing with an adverb attached. It would happen four or five times per page in some places. But that's a nit-picky adult complaint. 8/10 would recommend to young readers.
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I received a free eARC so I could read this book. Thank you for the opportunity. 

Pearl loves two things-making Amigurumi, and spending time at a local Boba shop, with her friends, or with the woman who owns it, Auntie Chu. who has also become a mentor and friend. Both give her a connection to her Taiwanese cultural heritage, and validation and support she doesn’t feel she gets from her tech focused family.  When Auntie Chu may have to sell and shut down the shop, Pearl decides she has to save it. 

This is a sweet middle grades book about the value of cultural awareness, traditions, and family, both born and adopted. Pearl’s relationships with her family and her friends are truly explored. Her struggles are real, and the conclusion earned. This is a book that many kids will see themselves in. For those who are Asian, Pearl and her friends will reflect elements of  lives and give them relatable characters. For those who are not, it gives them a greater understanding of their friends and classmates. All in all, an excellent book.
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Thank you to HarperCollins Children's Books and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review. 
This book was great! It was the right mix of cozy, cute, and lesson oriented. I thought that the characters were complex and believable and each character brought something to the plot. I loved the exploration of different types of relationships (friends, sisters, daughter, mentor, "enemies"). I also liked that though everything did not go according to plan all of the characters grew. Also, I wish I could buy an Oscar. Definitely recommend.
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I had mistakenly assumed this book was a graphic novel. Thank goodness I made that “mistake”- what a great MG book.

 I loved the storyline and themes of being true to yourself, creating just to make yourself feel happy and being proud of yourself and the things that make you feel joy. What an empowering children’s fiction book.  The characters are well developed and by the end of the first chapter I wanted to hang out with Pearl in the boba tea shop and watch her make her amigurumi characters. The amazing connection that Pearl has with Auntie Chen, the owner of the tea shop and not an actual member of her family. And the amazing lengths Pearl went to help what she meant the world to her despite the lack of support from her parents. 

What a powerful message for kids who are learning who they are, and parents who tend to forget this important lesson at any age.

P.S please make me an Oscar too 😊

Grateful to have received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley & HarperCollins Children's Books, Quill Tree Books
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I really liked this one. I loved that Pearl worked to sell her crochet to help save her favorite Boba Tea shop. I liked the look at young entrepreneurship and standing up for what you love to do. 

Thank you NetGalley for this ARC!
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This was a charming and cute story of a determined girl and the lengths she goes to try to help others. Highly recommend!
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This was a beautifully done heartfelt story, I really enjoyed getting to know the characters and the tea shop Boba Time. I could relate to the characters and their struggle, it was what I wanted from a young adult novel. I enjoyed the way Nicole Chen writes, she has a beautiful way of tell a story a lot of people will relate to. It was what I wanted from a young adult novel. I look forward to reading more from Nicole Chen.

“We’ll find lots of fun stuff at Second Closet. My dad comes here all the time for random supplies, and my mom’s found some special South Indian antiques here, too,” Priya explained. “All your amigurumi have such big personalities that your booth design needs to have the same quirky vibe. I bet things will be cheaper there, too.”
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