Our Friend is Here! An Interview with Hanna Alkaf, Author of The Girl and the Ghost; On Writing Friendship, Malaysian Childhoods, & Being True to Your Stories

the girl and the ghost hanna alkaf author interview malaysian friendship childhood the quiet pond

The stars are bright in the sky tonight as you lie down on the grass, the Pond around you restful and serene. It’s been a long day, and you nearly fall asleep in the lull of the surrounding cricketsong, but just as you begin to drift off, the ground beneath you moves with a faint tremor.

And then—a smell. It is light and sweet, a whisper of fragrance blooming against the fresh grass.

An illustration of Hanna Alkaf as a teal elephant, wearing glasses and wearing a hijab.From the nearby bushes emerges Sprout, their little sapling glowing faintly verdant, and a familiar friend that you’ve seen before: it’s Hanna the elephant!

Hanna raises her trunk in a cheerful greeting, and you wave hello back. You remember Hanna from when she visited the Pond for her YA historical novel The Weight of Our Sky, and she’s back! Her hijab looks a little different from last time too, and you can’t help but admire the lovely streaks of green that now adorn the headscarf.

Sprout hops with excitement, “Hanna is here to talk about her new book, friend! Both Xiaolong and I have read it already, and we both really love it! Would you like to join us?”

You begin to nod yes, but then remember the sweet smell from before. You ask Sprout if they smell it too, and their eyes light up. “Oh yes! I picked some frangipani along the way here!” They hold up a handful of small, white flowers. “Did you know, friend, that frangipanis are associated with spirits and ghosts in Malaysia? Hanna’s new book is all about Malaysian spirits too!

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You smile as you sit down with Sprout and Hanna: ghosts are certainly fitting for a nighttime story!

It’s no secret that we here at the Pond absolutely adore Hanna’s stories, and her most recent middle-grade fantasy The Girl and the Ghost definitely lived up to all my expectations and more! I absolutely devoured the book, and friend, I cannot express how positively heartwarming to see my own Malaysian childhood and upbringing reflected in the pages of Suraya’s story. It felt like coming home.

So if you’re in the mood for a creepy, lushly-written tale about friendship and growing up set in a tiny kampung where a girl encounters an inherited ghost that changes her life, this is absolutely the book for you. We’re so honored today to have Hanna here at the Pond to talk about her story and her craft, and what it means to be true to who you’re writing for.

But before that, let me formally tell you what the book is all about too!

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BLOG TOUR: The Weight Of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf – A Malay Teen Searches For Her Mother During the Malaysian 1969 Riots (Book Review & Author Interview)

White block reads 'The Weight of Our Sky, Hanna Alkaf, South-east Asian Blog Tour. January 28th - February 8th 2019. On the right is an image of a Malay female teen wearing a blue pinafore over a white tshirt on a moped, driven by a Chinese male teen wearing a white shirt and black slacks, with fire and smoke in the background.

“Friend, friend, friend!”

Xiaolong scurries to you, a bounce in her step and a big smile on her face. “I have some wonderful plans for your visit today!”

You crouch down so you can see her better, and ask her about her plans.

Xiaolong the pink axolotl, wearing an upside down flower hat, holding a staff and gesturing to a floating book, The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf.

“Okay, first!” She raises her staff, magicks a book from midair, and gestures to the book. “This book! It only just released, friend! And it’s such a good book. I couldn’t put it down! I just wanted to keep reading and reading and reading, and then, when I finished it, Gen told me that it was time for dinner.” She shakes her head. “I also learned a lot, friend. I had no idea about the historical events that this book talks about, and I… I learned a lot. And I think it’s really important that I tell you about this book.”

Once you find a comfier spot by the Pond, you settle down and ask Xiaolong about this important book.

“So,” she says, holding the cover out for you to see. “This book is called The Weight of Our Sky…

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The Pond’s Most Anticipated Reads of 2019, Part II. – Eight(een) Diverse Debuts You and I Can’t Miss in 2019

TEXT: The Pond's Most Anticipated Reads; Eight(een) Diverse Debuts You and I can't miss in 2019. Image: Xiaolong the pink axolotl, reading a book and sitting inside a book tent and fort, surrounded by books.

Welcome back to the second part of our The Pond’s Most Anticipated Reads series, friends! It’s great to see you again and I hope you all are reading some lovely books. 💜

Welcome to Part II of The Pond’s Most Anticipated Reads of ’19

After doing a lot of research on the diverse books releasing in 2019, I had initially planned to write a simple ‘top 8 most anticipated books of 2019’, but after browsing Goodreads for hours, it occurred to me that one post about my top picks for 2019 was impossible and was not worth the pain. Therefore, today’s post is the second post of my week-long event of The Pond’s Most Anticipated Reads of 2019!

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