cover image 9 Kilometers

9 Kilometers

Claudio Aguilera, trans. from the Spanish by Lawrence Schimel, illus. by Gabriela Lyon. Eerdmans, $18.99 (56p) ISBN 978-0-80-285600-5

Long before the sun rises, a nameless Chilean child starts walking nine kilometers to school, mindful en route of the activity around them. Sliding beneath barbed wire, navigating forest and field, and traveling over water by cable ferry, the narrator likes “to walk and count,” keeping track of butterflies or lizards. Throughout, Aguilera’s rhythmic lines note the distance in metric terms and via different animals’ speeds, and envision the distance in terms of buildings and aircraft carriers. Sensorial phrases speak to the child’s varying experiences of the journey: “There are days when 9 kilometers feels like a stone inside a worn-out shoe. Other days, however, the steps feel as sweet as a handful of blackberries or a ripe apple, and they pass as quickly as a shadow.” Lyon’s saturated, painterly illustrations capture the text’s thoughtful mood, visualizing the walk—and the antics of various animal and bird species—across landscapes both wide-lens and zoomed-in. Contemplating, per an end note, “the construction of a society in which education is a right and not a privilege,” this is a narrative to encounter again and again. An opening note defines imperial and metric units; back matter details various children’s long walks to school and describes birds of southern Chile. Ages 5–9. (Feb.)