A little girl realizes she can’t help her grandmother until she helps her community in this moving debut by Robinson, featuring Matsuoka’s fantastic illustrations of a modern African-American family.
Eleven-year-old Zoe is very close to her grandmother, which makes it particularly hard to cope with life after Gram’s heart attack. The doctors have said Gram needs more exercise to help her recover and be healthy. Gram proposes a walk after dinner, which Zoe thinks is a great idea—until her mother points out that, without sidewalks, Gram’s unsteady walking won’t be safe. Zoe’s worry grows until, at school, a visiting guest who works for the city tells the students they can submit photographs of things in their neighborhood that make it difficult to be healthy. The story follows a predictable, but nonetheless powerful, pattern as Zoe takes photos of her neighborhood’s streets, showing that the lack of sidewalks makes it difficult to be a pedestrian. (There are depictions of her taking the photos but no actual photos.) Her project is chosen to compete in front of the mayor, though Zoe doesn’t expect to win first prize. Along the way, Zoe has very few hurdles to overcome except waiting and doing her best. The lack of tension works well: the story shows young readers, especially those of disadvantaged communities, that with time, effort, and the right advocates, they can make a difference. Robinson, who has worked on Photovoice projects but is unaffiliated with the company, puts her real-world experience into an easy-to-grasp format. Zoe’s earnestness and willingness to work—all out of concern for a beloved grandmother—are easy traits to admire. Vocabulary is appropriate for middle graders reading upper-level chapter books, and the frequent full-color illustrations break up the text nicely.
Cheerful art and an encouraging story of one girl’s hard work leading to real change.