DRAWING DEENA, by Hena Khan, Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Feb. 6, 2024, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 8-12)
A young Pakistani American works to manage her anxiety through creating art in Drawing Deena, a new middle-grade novel by Hena Khan.
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. —Synopsis provided by Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
From the front cover to Hena Khan’s accessible prose, everything about Drawing Deena is beautiful.
Deena is an inviting character who internalizes the stresses around her — family finances, friendships and social media — something many middle-readers will be able to relate to. As Deena’s anxiety comes to a head, she learns that there are resources available to help her, and most importantly, she is loved and her family loves her.
Khan’s approach to mental health is warm and supportive. She allows both Deena and readers to breathe and grow.
The other main element of Drawing Deena is art, the love of creating, and finding the right path for yourself. Here, Khan not only touches on favorites like Van Gogh, but also on contemporary artists who are constantly inventing and reinventing themselves.
With broad appeal, Drawing Deena is a good choice for home or classrooms.
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