When she arrives, she dislikes the heat, but she is shocked to find out that her grandparents are really rich. It also gives her questions about why her mother chooses to live the life of a "starving artist" in the US. Mimi also thinks she may have found a friend in one of the servants who works there.
Sakina works in the kitchen with her father to help provide for her family, who live in relative poverty with little food and water. She is the same age as Mimi, but she has never been to school, needing to work instead. Despite that, she has managed to educate herself and is close to being accepted at a good school where she desperately wants to go. The only obstacle is how much English she knows, as she will need to pass the English exam. When Mimi keeps hanging around, Sakina decides to have her help with the language and can't help but dream of all the things Mimi takes for granted.
What I loved: Both Mimi and Sakina leap off the page as so genuine and real that they are easy to imagine and impossible not to love. Their friendship grows slowly, and it was a pleasure to watch with both of their perspectives provided. The juxtaposition of economic status was also stark and helps to open middle grade readers' eyes to these differences. All of the characters in the book grow on the reader throughout the reading, and I loved both the main characters and their families. All of the characters are beautifully crafted.
The city also really came to life here, and it's easy to believe that the author has so much experience with it. The descriptions are so vibrant that they transport the reader there. Considering the novel was based on her experience with bringing her children to Pakistan, the novel also resonates as so true and real.
There are also some interesting secondary themes in the book that really add some power to the text, including but not limited to challenging familial relationships, socioeconomic disparity, the value of education, and the importance of learning about and understanding other cultures.
Final verdict: Overall, A THOUSAND QUESTIONS is a beautifully crafted middle grade contemporary that brings the reader along for an unforgettable, heartfelt, and genuine journey through the friendship bonds forged over a summer in Pakistan. Highly recommend for all middle grade audiences.