Ah, these characters are going to stay with me for a while, I know it. A Thousand Questions (HarperCollins, October 2020) by Saadia Faruqi is one of those books where I so wished I could spend more time with the characters after the pages ran out.
Mimi and Sakina are two seemingly very different eleven-year-old girls. Mimi is from Houston, Texas and is lively, sassy, carefree, and a big fan of T-shirts with sarcastic or funny sayings printed on them. Sakina lives in Karachi, Pakistan and assists her father as a cook for a wealthy Pakistani family. Sakina has many worries, from her family’s poverty to her father’s health problems, and the fact that she wishes she could attend school instead of working.
When Mimi’s mom takes her to meet her grandparents in Karachi for the first time, Mimi doesn’t think she can get used to the heat, the spicy food, or the fact that Pakistani people don’t seem to share her sense of humor. Then Mimi befriends her grandmother’s hired girl, Sakina, and that begins to change. Sakina introduces Mimi to the sights and culture of Karachi. In return, Mimi helps Sakina improve upon her English skills so that she can retake the test to get into school.
The chapters are written in first-person, present tense, alternating between Sakina’s and Mimi’s POVs so you can really get into each girl’s head and see what she thinks of the other girl. Both girls’ perceptions of each other–and of some other characters, too–begin to change over the course of the book as they give each other perspective and develop a genuine, heartwarming friendship. Driving the story is the mystery of Mimi’s estranged father, who also happens to be in Karachi at the time, and all the questions Mimi wishes she could ask him. This is a beautiful middle-grade tale of friendship, family, culture, and allowing our experiences to change us and help us grow.