Happy Book Birthday to Janae Marks and her debut novel, From the Desk of Zoe Washington, which is my first read on my #mustreadin2020 middle grade novel list! Special thanks to the publisher Katherine Tegan/Harper Collins for sharing an ARC at the NCTE convention.
On aspiring baker Zoe’s twelfth birthday, her life is forever changed when she checks the mailbox and finds a letter from her biological father Marcus who has been in prison her whole life. While this letter is the first one Zoe has read, she learns that Marcus has been writing her letters for a long time. Curious about a man she has never met who calls her his Little Tomato and loves music, Zoe secretly begins writing to him unbeknownst to her mother and stepfather. With each letter, Zoe gets to know Marcus better and finds it hard to believe that he is in jail for committing murder. When Zoe finally gets the courage to ask him about the crime, he not only explains he is innocent but also shares his alibi.
As if the weight of clearing her father’s conviction isn’t heavy enough, Zoe is also juggling an internship at a local bakery, a possible audition with Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge, and a disagreement with her best friend Trevor. Fortunately, being honest with both her grandmother and Trevor provides Zoe with support as she searches for the truth.
Written from Zoe’s point of view, debut author Marks expertly captures the voice of passionate and determined Zoe who is an advocate for her father. Readers see Zoe struggle with lying to her parents along with her boldness and urgency as she seeks to uncover the truth about her father. Marks tackles tough issues such as institutionalized racism in a way that is accessible for middle grade readers. From the Desk of Zoe Washington is Zoe teaches us that one person can indeed make a difference and how family can forgive each other for making mistakes.
I highly recommend From the Desk of Zoe Washington! Just waiting for my hardcover copy to arrive so I can share with students and teachers!