Wednesday, March 01, 2023

On Air With Zoe Washington and 9 Kilometers

Marks, Janae. On Air with Zoe Washington
February 14th 2023 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

After writing to her father and working to get him exonerated for a crime which he did not commit in From the desk of Zoe Washington, Zoe is back. At fourteen, she's glad to be working at Ari's bakery, although she has to work at the counter and not in the bakery, which is her ture love. Her father Marcus is working at the bakery and trying to put his life back together. Zoe's mom, dad, and grandma are supportive, and even have Marcus over for Sunday suppers so that everyone can reconnect. Zoe is impatient about a lot of things, and when she finds out that Marcus would like to open his own restaurant, she feels that opening one soon would get her back to baking and solve a lot of her problems. It's not that simple, though. Marcus has no credit score, so a bank won't loan him the money. It's a long process to get restitution for his wrongful incarceration. Starting a restaurant takes a lot of thought and work. After contacting the public radio broadcaster who interviewed her to see if she could get more publicity for Marcus' case, she is turned down, but decides to put together a podcast. She is also dealing with the fact that her friends Trevor and Maya "like like" each other, and finds herself in the middle of their fledgling romance, hoping it won't go wrong. She is also contacted by Hannah, a girl whose mother is in jail for crimes she did commit. Hannah heard Zoe's interview, and wants to connect because she doesn't know anyone else with a parent in jail, and the two spend some time together. Marcus and Zoe finally realize that it might be possible for Marcus to fund and run a food truck, and the two work on a Kickstarter campaign to fund Big and Little BBQ. Things look bleak until Zoe decides to put on a fundraiser/podcast event. Will she be able to raise the money so that the food truck dream can come true?
Strengths: I'm a fan of an interesting yet supportive dynamic, and I loved that Zoe's mom and dad, and even her grandmother are supportive of Zoe and Marcus reconnecting. Zoe does a great job at looking into the details of setting up a restaurant, and exercises a lot of agency for a young person, which is great to see. The drama with her friends liking each other adds another layer of interest, and her compassion for Hannah is a good example of paying things forward. We don't see her bake as much, because she's busy with so many other things, but the cupcakes on the cover are a nice touch. Marks writes a complex and nuanced novels that are generally upbeat but deal with serious issues. A Soft Place to Land has circulated well, and I'll be looking forward to whatever she writes next. 
Weaknesses: As a fan of the long, long range plans myself, Zoe seemed too impatient for results. Marcus' plan to wait until she was out of college (eight years) seemed completely realistic to me, but way too long for most tweens and high schoolers. 
What I really think: This is an interesting follow up to the first book, and answers a lot of questions about Zoe, her father, and her whole family go forward. Kids Doing Things is my favorite kind of book, and I enjoyed Zoe's baking, working, playing Cupid, and hanging out with her family. 

Aguilera, Claudio, Lyon, Gabriela (illus.), and Schimel, Lawrence (trans.)
9 Kilometers 
February 28, 2023 by Eerdmans Books for Young Reader
Copy provided by the publisher

A young boy leaves home early in the morning while it is still dark in order to walk 9 kilometers to school. He talks about the subjects that occupy his mind on the journey; he thinks about the math of calculating the number of steps he takes every day, looks at the different flora and fauna he encounters, and talks about the emotions he feels. He must go across fields and rivers, and is willing to make the journey because he knows that education is important. The end of the book includes short descriptions of other students who have walked long distances to school in different places around the world, including 45 children in Colombia who walk 10 kilometers along a road that is often impassable to vehicles, and a boy and his sister in Kenya who walked 15 kilometers to school. 

I walk about a mile and a half every day to school, no matter what the weather is, and people think this is unusual. Since my grandfather walked five miles to the Goodyear Tire Company in Akron and five miles home after working on the assembly line all day during the 1930s, it never seemed like a big deal to me. My students don't understand why I would not drive, so 9 Kilometers is a great book to show them that children in other countries put in a lot of effort to go to school, and that education is something that they should not take for granted!

The illustrations are appealing, and the color palettes changes with the light and weather the boy experiences. I doubt I'll ever see the Colombian countryside, so it is a nice look at a different environment. My walk is all sidewalks and streets; it would be interesting to have to take a pulley operated barge over a river, although I am sure that on some days it would just seem like a lot of work.  Eerdmans Books has a lot of titles from other countries that children in the US would benefit from reading, and this is perhaps my favorite. 


  1. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the new Zoe Washington book. I'm looking forward to reading it.

  2. I've seen Zoe Washington around and was wondering how it was. So, your take was interesting. Also, the illustrations sound especially nice in 9 Kilometers.

  3. Anonymous12:54 PM EST

    Very interesting characters and plot. Thanks for sharing. Carol Baldwin