Friday, October 14, 2022

Q&A with Hena Khan

Photo by Havar Espedal



Hena Khan is the author of the new middle grade novel Zara's Rules for Finding Hidden Treasure, the second in a new series following Zara's Rules for Record-Breaking Fun. Her many other books include Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream. She lives in Rockville, Maryland.


Q: Why did you decide to focus on your character Zara (the older sister of your character Zayd) in this new series?


A: When I wrote the Zayd series, I was always amused by Zara and the way her little brother saw her—as someone who knew everything and yet tried and quit so many things.


I thought it would be fun to let Zara shine and be the star of her own series. She is very much a girl who is trying to figure things out, failing along the way, and hopefully making kids laugh and grow with her in the process. 

Q: You’ve mentioned Beverly Cleary's Ramona series as an inspiration for these books—can you say more about why they appeal to you?


A: I love the fact that Ramona is so relatable, perhaps because of her flaws and mistakes, and that her stories are very centered around her family, friends, and neighborhood. They are fun and antic-filled, and as a kid, I wished I was part of her gang. I definitely wanted to create a similar feeling with my series. 


Q: Why did you choose to focus on the idea of finding hidden treasure in the second book in the series, Zara's Rules for Finding Hidden Treasure?


A: I grew up in a family that saved everything—things that were sentimental, stuff that could be reused one day, and honestly, even junk. I wanted to explore the idea of what we hold on to and why—the things that have value and what we think we need, along with what we can share. And I thought it would be fun to include a memory of mine—having a not-so-successful wagon-based business!


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the books?


A: I hope they will be thoroughly entertained, but also feel like they made a new friend in Zara. I’d love for her to be someone who they can see parts of themselves in, and someone who they can grow up with.


It would also be wonderful for my readers to appreciate the loving Pakistani American Muslim family Zara and Zayd are a part of, and to find parts of the culture as fun and funny as I do.


Q: What's next in the series?


A: There’s another Zara adventure slated for the spring, and I heard there will also be a Zara’s Rules box set, which was very exciting for me to learn! I’m thrilled to have readers get to know more about Zara and her big, kind heart.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I based a lot of the series on my own family, including my parents who are the inspiration for Zara’s grandparents, Naano and Nana Abu, and drew heavily from my childhood experiences. The Goldstein family is based on my neighbors and friends when I was growing up and I loved exploring the easy and warm friendship we had with our Jewish neighbors.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Hena Khan.

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