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Finalist: Scholastic Asian Book Awards

How does one even tell a story about childhood in a time of war? Yet Mabel Gan has gone further than many to meld innocence and experience, hope and anguish. The Ghost Who Pinched Me is precious.

- Gwee Li Sui, author & literary critic
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- Gwee Li Sui, author and literary critic



Ten-year-old Bee Ling lives a privileged life in 1940s colonial Singapore. She attends a Catholic girls' school and is waited on by three Amahs, or maids. Her biggest problem is her beautiful elder sister, Ying, who is popular in school and favoured by their mother. 


When the Japanese attack Singapore, Ying is killed in an air raid. As Bee Ling struggles to come to terms with Ying's death and the new circumstances of her life during the Japanese Occupation, Ying returns as a ghost.

The book is a work of fiction based on historical events, such as the bombing of Singapore and the Sook Ching massacre. 


Sibling Rivalry

Bee Ling is jealous of Ying's popularity in school and resents being known as the "little sister." The appearance of Ying's ghost forces Bee Ling to re-examine her relationship with her older sister, taking her on a journey of self-discovery.

Domestic Servitude 

The Amahs (also known as Ma Jie) were Chinese female domestic servants in 1930s - 1970s Singapore. The story explores Bee Ling's complex relationship with the three Amahs who work for her family.

Character Growth

Ying often calls her out for acting spoilt and childish, and as their father notes, Bee Ling always gets her way. But when Singapore falls to the Japanese, Bee Ling is determined to rise to the occasion, even if it means growing up.

Historical Context

The Japanese Occupation of Singapore took place from 1942 to 1945, following the fall of the British colony on 15 February, 1942.


Singapore was renamed Syonan-to,  meaning light of the south island. 

During the Japanese Occupation, the Kempeitei, or Japanese military police, committed many atrocities,

including the Sook Ching massacre which claimed the lives of up to 50,000 ethic Chinese men. Basic resources, such as water, food and medicine were in short supply, and people suffered from malnutrition and diseases.

The Japanese Occupation of Singapore officially ended on 12 September 1945, following the surrender of Japan to the Allies.

School Visits

The Ghost Who Pinched Me is historical fiction, recommended for Grades 5 to 9. To sign up for an author visit, please use this contact form


Mabel with Ms. Andrea McDonald's 6th Grade English class at United World College South East Asia (Singapore)


The Author

Mabel is a writer, director, and producer whose work explores the stories of young people. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Film, Television and the Recording Arts from Florida State University, where her thesis film, Child Bride, was a finalist in the Student Academy Awards. Her work has been broadcast on MediaCorp, the Disney Channel, and MTV Asia as well as screened in film festivals around the world.

Mabel founded the Big Eyes, Big Minds — Singapore International Children’s Film Festival and produces the annual event as well as its sister film festival in St. Louis, where she resides with her family.

The Ghost Who Pinched Me, a finalist in the 2018 Scholastic Asian Book Awards, is her first novel. It is dedicated to her late grandmother who lost four children in a Japanese air raid on Singapore during WW2. 

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