“In the dim candlelight, the small room seem to have shrunk. I felt my chest tighten and worried that there wasn’t enough air for all of us. I couldn’t control myself and let out a sob. Siew Cheh put her arm around me and squeezed my shoulder. Don’t worry, Bee. We’ll take care of you she said kindly”

This is an excerpt from chapter ten of Mabel Gan’s The Ghost Who Pinched Me. Although this book is meant for children between the ages of nine and fourteen and is not necessarily age appropriate for me but I still enjoyed reading it. 

Mabel Gan is a writer, director, and producer who explores the stories of young people. She is the founder of Big Eyes, Big Minds – Singapore International Children’s Film Festival- an annual event in St. Louis where she currently resides with her family. She has a Masters of Fine Arts in Motion Picture Arts from Florida State University, where her thesis film, Child Bride, was a finalist at the Student Academy Awards. She also wrote and directed the coming-of age feature film, Sweet Dreams and Turtle Soup, and helmed numerous television shows, including Kids United.

Earlier this month, Gan launched her debut book The Ghost Who Pinched Me at Kinokuniya Singapore Main Store. Unfortunately, I missed the launch so when my editor told me that I had the opportunity to attend the reading and discussion of the book during the Singapore Writers Festival, I had to go. After listening to excerpts and understanding about the inspiration behind the book from the author, I was intrigued to read more- know the complete story.

Of Amahs and Ghost Stories, Of Love In War

The Ghost Who Pinched Me is a work of fiction based on actual historical events, such as the bombing of Singapore and the Sook Ching massacre. Set in 1940s Singapore, the book revolves around ten-year-old Bee Ling who lives with her parents, three Amahs and an elder sister, Ying. She grows up sheltered and privileged but she is jealous of her beautiful older sister. When the Japanese attack Singapore, Ying is killed in a dreadful air raid, plunging the family into wartime hardship. 

Ying then returns as a spirit to guide, reassure and protect Bee Ling. Ying’s love for Bee survives in an unexpected way and Bee grows to cherish the bond that hold fast even in the face of devastating loss. 

“Something made me look from the amahs to the frangipani tree in the corner. And there she was – Ying. I shivered. Was my fever making me imagine things? I needed to tell Ma and Papa right away, but at this very moment, they were at Bukit Brown Cemetery, tending to Ying’s funeral.”

Gan paints a vivid picture with words where her characters come to life as they walk you through their stories. Her writing is so vivid that she is able to create a complete universe without over-fantasizing ideas, keeping the young readers in mind. Writing about a story during wartime while deriving from local urban legends, Gan manages to add humour to the narrative. This coming-of-age novel is an intimate portrait of love, family, resilience, and the power of sisterhood.

From sibling rivalry to domestic servitude- the book captures the essence of some intense themes. A perfect gift for tweens and teens, The Ghost Who Pinched Me by Mabel Gan is a must-read this holiday season. 

The Author Mabel Gan with writer Surabhi Pandey

The Ghost Who Pinched Me is available at Kinokuniya and multiple online stores. Learn more about the book on Mable Gan’s website.