“Drawing Deena” by Hena Khan Spotlights Mental Health in Children's Literature

The book recently earned a coveted starred review from Kirkus, who called it “a nuanced and quietly powerful story” in their write-up.

“Drawing Deena” by Hena Khan Spotlights Mental Health in Children's Literature
"Drawing Deena" has been praised for its cultural references and Urdu phrases alongside its thoughtful questions about the arts and the way it handles mental health.

"Drawing Deena," a middle grade novel about a young Pakistani American artist struggling with anxiety, is set to publish next week. The book is the latest work from the prolific, award-winning children’s author Hena Khan.

Ahead of its publication, “Drawing Deena” has caught attention from readers and critics alike. The book recently earned a coveted starred review from Kirkus, who called it “a nuanced and quietly powerful story” in their write-up.

Fann sat down with Khan last year as part of our “Fall Into Reading” interview series, which spotlighted the Muslim authors who are changing the game in children’s literature. In the interview, Khan spoke about “Drawing Deena” and the importance of discussing mental health in children’s literature. “I think the joy of writing for this age group is that you can just think about big things — things that many of us are grappling with — through the eyes of a 12-year-old,” Khan said in the interview. “Especially in my community, I feel like there's a reluctance to necessarily recognize mental health issues as much as I think we should.” You can read Fann’s full conversation with Khan here.

Read the description of "Drawing Deena" from its publisher, Simon & Schuster:

From the award-winning author of “Amina’s Voice” and “Amina’s Song” comes a tenderhearted middle grade novel about a young Pakistani American artist determined to manage her anxiety and forge her own creative path.
Deena’s never given a name to the familiar knot in her stomach that appears when her parents argue about money, when it’s time to go to school, or when she struggles to find the right words. She manages to make it through each day with the help of her friends and the art she loves to make.
While her parents’ money troubles cause more and more stress, Deena wonders if she can use her artistic talents to ease their burden. She creates a logo and social media account to promote her mom’s home-based business selling clothes from Pakistan to the local community. With her cousin and friends modeling the outfits and lending their social media know-how, business picks up.
But the success and attention make Deena’s cousin and best friend, Parisa, start to act funny. Suddenly Deena’s latest creative outlet becomes another thing that makes her feel nauseated and unsure of herself. After Deena reaches a breaking point, both she and her mother learn the importance of asking for help and that, with the right support, Deena can create something truly beautiful.

Hena Khan has been publishing books for children, including many that center Pakistani American and Muslim characters, for over two decades. She writes award-winning books in a multitude of formats, including picture books, middle grade fiction, pick-your-path adventures and graphic novels. Her stories are often centered around her culture, community, friendship and family, and draw from her own experiences. Khan holds an MA in International Affairs from The George Washington University, has served on the board of We Need Diverse Books and is a member of the Children’s Book Guild of DC. She lives in her hometown of Rockville, Md.

“Drawing Deena” will publish on Feb. 6, 2024. It’s not too late to preorder your copy at the link below.