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.
Author: Barbara O’Connor
Genre: MG Fiction
Page Count: 236 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher’s Summary: Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. She even has a list of all the ways there are to make the wish, such as cutting off the pointed end of a slice of pie and wishing on it as she takes the last bite. But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to live with family she barely knows, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in serious danger of discovering that what she thought she wanted may not be what she needs at all.
From award-winning author Barbara O’Connor comes a middle-grade novel about a girl who, with the help of a true-blue friend, a big-hearted aunt and uncle, and the dog of her dreams, unexpectedly learns the true meaning of family in the least likely of places.
My Thoughts: This book sold like hotcakes both years I volunteered at the book fair at my son’s elementary school. I decided to give it a read. I was pleasantly surprised by such a sweet story about a little girl struggling with her anger when she’s sent to live in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her aunt and uncle. Charlie’s father is in jail and her mother is sadly negligent. Thankfully, her aunt and uncle have hearts of gold and take her in as their own. At first, Charlie is prejudiced against the little mountain town and its “hillbilly kids” who probably “eat squirrel.” But, with the help of a scrawny puppy who’s a stray like her, Charlie learns to love her new home.
Throughout the story is the motif of wishes and every possible superstition surrounding them – blowing on dandelions, knocking on wood, etc. Of course, Charlie is constantly wishing for one outcome she wants…only to discover that maybe it’s the other outcome she needs. A heartwarming story for fans of books like Because of Winn-Dixie.
My favorite book by Sarah Dessen is Keeping the Moon (1999). Nicole Sparks used to be friendless and overweight. But even after her weight loss, mostly brought about by her mother’s recent success as a famous fitness instructor, Colie’s still friendless, and bullied at school by false, vicious rumors. When her mother leaves to promote her fitness brand on a European tour, Colie is dismayed to be sent to the beach of Colby, North Carolina to stay with her eccentric aunt Mira for the summer.
On her first night in Colby, Colie meets Norman, the artsy Deadhead who lives in her aunt’s basement; and Morgan and Isabel, the two waitresses at the Last Chance Bar and Grill. Perky, organized, brown-haired Morgan takes an instant liking to Colie, and asks her to help out at the restaurant. On the other hand, Morgan’s best friend and fellow waitress– the blonde, gorgeous and moody Isabel– makes no effort to disguise her disdain for Colie. But Colie joins the staff at the Last Chance– where Norman also happens to work – and eventually forges an unlikely bond with all three of them: Norman, Morgan, and even Isabel.
The raw and beautiful friendship between Morgan and Isabel steals the show, weaving its own fleshed-out story behind Colie, and making the reader yearn for a friendship like theirs. As such, Keeping the Moon is the definition of chick lit, a “girl book” through and through. And I mean that as high praise! Dessen has won me over again (she had me at What Happened to Goodbye) in her perfect, all-American coming-of-age narrative. I absolutely adored this book from start to finish and will be recommending it to all of my girlfriends.