Publishers' Preview: Middle-Grade: Five Questions for Hena Khan

This interview originally appeared in the January/February 2021 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Middle-Grade, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

Sponsored by

In Amina’s Song, sequel to Amina’s Voice, the protagonist finds out that her American classmates have a lot to learn about her beloved Pakistan.

1. Were you a school-club joiner?

In high school, I was on the debate team, school newspaper, and field hockey team, and in service clubs. Unlike Amina, I do not have any singing talent or desire to perform, so I stayed away from the chorus and drama club!

2. What’s one thing you wish Americans understood about Pakistan?

Pakistan is a relatively young country still grappling with the legacy of colonialism, so Pakistani people have endured a lot of instability and conflict, but they remain resilient, generous, and enterprising. And everyone there, from a village schoolteacher to a big-city executive, wants the same basic things for their families and futures as we do in America.

3. Who was your childhood book heroine?

I adored Ramona Quimby and her antics. She made mistakes and was grumpy at times, yet she always seemed to have fun. I wished for the confidence to wear coffee-can stilts and clomp through my neighborhood singing at the top of my lungs.

4. Does writing a sequel change how you see the book it came from?

It forced me to think about what I included in Amina’s Voice and consider the feedback since it came out. I wanted to address the questions I’ve been asked, and honor readers’ emotional journeys in the first book. I also wanted to make sure they felt connected to the characters they already knew, while those characters continue to evolve.

5. Any advice for staying connected to faraway family?

I saw my mother pine for her family in Pakistan when I was growing up in Maryland. She’d wait months to finally have a static-filled three-minute phone conversation with her parents, since long-distance calls were so expensive. Today, she can video-call her relatives anytime, and we all enjoy family chat groups. For me, the simplest way to stay connected is to make sure people who live far away know they matter, and to reach out specifically to let them know I’m thinking of them.

Sponsored by

Photo: Havar Espedal.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.