When someone asked Mini, “Who is your friend?” she always said, “Manoj”.

Manoj was Mini’s brother. Mini and Manoj played together. Manoj liked to tease Mini. Sometimes Manoj told Mini stories. Sometimes Mini drew pictures for her brother. But Manoj was not Mini’s only friend.

Mini had many friends. Some of these friends lived near her house. Mini played with them every day. Some were her friends at school. She jumped and ran with them. And she ate her lunch with them. When Mini came home from school, she always had stories to tell about her friends. Sometimes a friend fell down and cried. Another day Mini had a story about a friend who was ill and did not come to school. Sometimes friends were angry with one another. Then they stopped talking, and Mini told her family about them. But most of the time, Mini’s stories were about how she and her friends played together.

So, Amma, Baba, and Manoj knew Mini’s friends. They knew which friends could run fast. They knew which friends shared their lunch with Mini. And which friends lent Mini pencils or erasers. Some of Mini’s friends sang songs. Others danced. There was Arya and Rishi. There was Tania and Rayan. There were Saira, Kuldeep, and Maria.

But one day when Mini came home from school, she said, “There’s a new girl in my class.”

“What is her name?” Amma asked. But Mini didn’t know.

“Is she nice?” Baba asked. But Mini had not talked to her. So, she could not tell Baba.

“Is she your friend?” Manoj wanted to know. It was too early to say that. So Mini didn’t say anything.

Amma wondered if the new girl would play with Mini. “Perhaps,” Baba said, “the new girl will eat her lunch with Mini.”

“I hope,” Manoj said, “the new girl will be friends with Mini.”

When Mini came home from school the next day, she said, “The new girl’s name is Anika.”

“Where does Anika live?” Amma asked. But Mini did not know.

“How does Anika come to school?” Baba wanted to know.

“Does she come by bus?”

“No,” Mini said, “she runs to school.”

Manoj wanted to know what Anika did. “Does she run fast?” he asked. “Or can she jump high?”

But Mini didn’t know.

“Oh, Mini,” Amma laughed.

“You don’t know anything at all about the new girl in your class!”

“I know many things,” Mini told them.

“What do you know?” Manoj asked her.

“Tell us!”

“Anika wears ribbons in her hair,” Mini said. “Anika brought a cake in her lunch box today.”

“How do you know that?” Baba asked.

“Saira fell down,” Mini said. “There was a lot of blood on her knee, and she began to cry. Then Anika gave her the cake. And Saira stopped crying and began to smile!”

“That’s only one thing you know about her,” Manoj said.

“I know more,” Mini told him.

“Anika knows many stories. And she can draw very well.”

“Did she tell you a story?” Baba asked.

“Did she show you her drawing?” Amma added.

Mini shook her head. “I saw her drawing pictures,” she said. “And I heard her telling Julie a story.”

“Hmm,” Baba said.

“And,” Mini said, “Anika smiled at me. And when Tahir lost his pencil, Anika gave him her pencil.”

“That was nice of her,” Amma smiled.

“But that’s not much, Mini,” Manoj said.

“It is,” Mini said. “I know a lot about the new girl in my class!”

“What do you know?” Manoj asked. “Only that she likes to draw and tell stories and brings cake to school.”

“And I know one more thing,” Mini told them.

“What is it?” Amma asked.

“I know that Anika is good at being a friend,” Mini said. “That is a very important thing!”

“Of course,” Baba said and Amma nodded. And Manoj agreed that Mini knew many things about the new girl in her class.

Excerpted with permission from Mini’s Friend, Nandini Nayar, illustrated by Isha Nagar, HarperCollins India.