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10-year-old Bee Ling is raised in a wealthy Peranakan family in 1940s British-ruled Singapore. She attends a Catholic girls' school and is waited on by three Amahs, or maids. Her biggest problem in life is her elder sister, Ying, who receives more attention than her both at home and in school. 


When the Japanese attack Singapore, Ying is killed in an air raid. Soon after, Singapore falls to the Empire of Japan. As Bee Ling struggles to come to terms with Ying's death and life under Japanese Occupation, Ying returns as a ghost.

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


Sibling Rivalry

Bee Ling believes that her mother favours Ying. She 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 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. Bee Ling has complex relationships with the three Amahs who work for her family. She regards Yong Cheh as her enemy for scolding and criticising her and thinks little of the timid Eng Cheh. Her favourite is the young and pretty Amah, Siew Cheh, whom she sometimes wishes was her mother. 

Character Growth

As her father says, Bee Ling always gets her way. But when Singapore falls to the Japanese, she 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 Young Adult historical fiction, recommended for Grades 5 to 9. To sign up for an author visit, please use this contact form


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. 



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 © 2020 Mabel Gan