Hena Khan is a local author, having been born and raised in Montgomery County. Since she was a little girl she has had her nose in a book, so it is not surprising that she became a children’s author – and there are many, many young readers thankful she did, too! My elementary school readers love her books, especially Amina’s Voice, Amina’s Song, and More to the Story, and were excited to learn that she wrote books with boy protagonists, too. Zayd Saleem has made his appearance in my library, and his books are also becoming favorites. If you haven’t read her Muslim Book Of Concepts picture books, beautifully illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini, you need to do so!
Hena will be presenting her latest book, Zara’s Rules for Record-Breaking Fun, the first in a humor-filled middle grade series starring a young Muslim girl with an endless list of hobbies who searches for ways to maximize fun for her family and neighborhood friends.
She’s a featured presenter along with Angela Dominquez (Stella Diaz to the Rescue) and Nicole D. Collier (Just Right Jillian). This panel will be moderated by MCPS media specialist and 2018 Maryland School Librarian of the Year, Tracy Jeffcott. Join the conversation 4:15-5:05 pm in the Jim Henson Pavilion and it is immediately followed by a book signing.
I hope you enjoy this interview with the talented Hena Khan.
What is your writing space like?
It varies! I have a home office with a desktop computer and lots of bookshelves in it where I work when I need quiet. But I also move around my house with a laptop, sitting at the dining table or even on my couch at times!
How (or in what ways) do you hope librarians will promote your book?
Librarians are amazing and do so much to support me, so I want to extend a huge and heartfelt thank you to you all! I hope you will continue to focus on the universal aspects of my books and highlight what might appeal most to all kids, in addition to the diversity component. I always appreciate the book tastings, read-alouds, book clubs, battles of the books, and the many other creative ways librarians share my work with readers!
What do you hope your readers will learn from reading your book?
I hope they are entertained most of all, and that they find a friend in Zara who they want to read more about in the next book in the series. I try not to be overly message-oriented, but there are themes of friendship and overcoming jealousy and the need to be in charge that might prove helpful to readers. And I hope kids will appreciate getting to know all the personalities in Zara’s multifaceted and fun Pakistani American Muslim extended family.
Who is the reader you are writing for? Describe them.
This book is for the reader who wants a lighthearted and fun-filled read that will make them laugh, but who also craves rich character development and some depth and substance in the story.
What is one (or more) thing(s) that you really want your readers to know about you?
I’d like them to know that many of the things that happen to Zara in this book are taken from my childhood, and that many of the characters are inspired by my real-life friends and neighbors growing up. For that reason, these books are especially close to my heart!
What do you love most about the cover art and illustrations in your book?
I adore the energy and emotion that Wastana managed to create on the cover illustration, along with the incredible design, including the fonts, color choices, turquoise foil and embossed images that make it pop. I would have gravitated toward this cover as a kid! Plus, all the illustrations in the book capture the personalities and emotions of the characters so well.
What has surprised you most about the characters in your book?
I always secretly scoffed at the idea of characters coming to life for writers and taking over the storytelling process, but now that I’ve written about these characters in six books, they are so real to me! I can picture them when I write and imagine their voices and what they would likely do or say, which makes it super fun for me.
Which book review or award has been most meaningful to you?
I’m so grateful for every review and award, but apart from kids’ reviews which are by far my favorite, the most meaningful was probably the first review I got from Publisher’s Weekly for Night of the Moon, my first picture book, way back in 2008. I didn’t know anything about the significance of editorial reviews back then, but I felt so validated when the reviewer said that I “portray Muslims as another vibrant thread in the great American tapestry, emphasizing the bonds of family, community and spirituality” since that was, and remains, a goal of mine.
What are you most looking forward to at our book festival?
I cannot wait to see people, meet friends new and old, and to talk with everyone face-to-face after so long! The festival has long been my favorite since it’s in my hometown, so well organized and run, and always such a good time!
We hope you will join Hena Khan at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 21st!
Hena Khan is a Pakistani American writer. She is the author of the middle grade novels, “Amina’s Voice,” “Amina’s Song,” “More to the Story” and the Zara’s Rules series, and picture books, “Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns,” “Under My Hijab,” and “It’s Ramadan, Curious George,” among others. She will be presenting “Zara’s Rules for Record-Breaking Fun” at the Festival. Hena lives in her hometown of Rockville, Maryland, with her family.