Hena Khan is the author of Power Forward, the first novel in a new series for kids, and Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets, a new children's picture book. Her other books include Amina's Voice and Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns. She lives in Rockville, Maryland.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for your new series, featuring your basketball-loving protagonist Zayd?
A: The idea came from a funny story my husband told me from his childhood. When he was in grade school, he used to sneak into the gym to play basketball when his mom dropped him off for violin practice.
This plan was working out great for him, and he was having a blast . . . until he left the violin in the car one day. His mom discovered it, came inside the school to give it to him, and of course was furious when she went to the music room and his teacher said he hadn’t been there for weeks!
This hilarious scenario became the inspiration for the new series, which includes a big dose of basketball, along with humor and an underdog protagonist to root for, who makes a few mistakes along the way.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from Power Forward, the first book in the series?
A: I hope kids will take away a lot of things—like realizing the importance of standing up for your dreams, recognizing the importance of family and friends who support you, and seeing how working hard can help you get closer to your goals.
I also hope to make kids laugh in the process and get to know a Pakistani American family that includes a few colorful characters and strong personalities that resemble a few people in my own life. Plus they might pick up some interesting tidbits about our culture, like some special foods, a sport that shares its name with an insect, and the intense drama of Pakistani soap operas!
Q: You also have a new picture book that just came out, Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets. What inspired the idea for this book?
A: This book is a sequel to Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, which is a book of colors that introduces objects and themes that are important to Muslims, like a prayer rug, the hijab, or the Quran. In the new book, we use shapes to introduce more things, like a minaret, the ka’aba, and the iftar or sunset meal of Ramadan.
The book is written in verse, and each page introduces a shape, an object or a concept, and offers a little description or explanation of what it is. I also include a glossary and author’s note that expands on why shapes and geometry are so significant in Islamic art.
Q: What do you think Mehrdokht Amini's illustrations add to the book?
A: Her art is just stunning, and I’m so thrilled to have been able to partner with her for both books! In Golden Domes, one little girl is narrating the story, which takes place in a western setting with her family featured throughout the pages.
For Crescent Moons, we decided to include characters and settings from different places around the world, such as Turkey, Tanzania, Malaysia, and more, on each spread. This allowed Mehrdokht to showcase the beauty of Islamic art and cultures, as well as the diversity that exists among Muslims.
As usual she incorporates exquisite details, patterns, and textures that make the book a visual feast! And the different colored endpapers with a gorgeous pattern make my heart happy.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m writing a new middle grade novel for Salaam Reads at the moment. For me the initial draft is always harder than going back and editing, so I’m looking forward to getting through it. I’m also excited to be co-authoring a book in the brand new Unicorn Rescue Society series with the incredibly talented Adam Gidwitz this fall.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Power Forward releases on May 8 and I will be touring to promote the book starting on May 2. You can find details of the tour and the different stops on my website and on my social media sites. I’d love to see you there! The second book in the series, On Point, releases on May 29 and the third, Bounce Back, will come out on Oct. 2. And I hope there will be more after them!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Hena Khan.