#MustReadsin2020, Book Birthday, Debut Author, Middle Grade Literature

Happy Book Birthday to From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

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.

image0.pngOn 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!

#Bookexcursion, #MustReadsin2020, Middle Grade Literature

A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi & Laura Shovan


I finished reading A Place at the Table before the New Year so I did not include it on my official #mustreadin2020 list, but this novel, beautifully co-written by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan is truly one you do not want to miss. 

Navigating middle school is challenging for sixth graders, Sara and Elizabeth. Sara is adjusting to attending public school for the first time, and Elizabeth is dealing with a change in her relationship with her best friend, Maddy.  Home life also presents issues. Sara is worried about her mother’s catering business while Elizabeth is coping with her mother’s depression after the death of Elizabeth’s grandmother. 

Sara and Elizabeth meet in an after school cooking club which is taught by Sara’s mother. The girls become partners out of necessity and at first, it seems that Sara who is Pakistan-American and Elizabeth who is British-Jewish-American have nothing in common. An extremely talented artist, Sara would rather create in her sketchbook while cooking, reading, and Dr. Who are Elizabeth’s passions. Their friendship has a rocky start but after a few mishaps,  they learn the key to being a true friend is honesty and patience.  Sara and Elizabeth also realize that their cultural differences are an asset, for through their collaboration, they create a unique recipe for the international cooking contest.

Told through the points of view of Sara and Elizabeth in alternating chapters, co-authors Faruqi and Shovan have seamlessly written an authentic and powerful middle grade story that explores themes of family, culture, religion, identity, racism, friendship, food and most importantly, finding the voice to speak up for yourself and others.   I highly recommend A Place at the Table to not only students but also teachers and parents, for I gained perspective on Pakistani and Jewish culture and the challenges of being a first generation American.  As a Marylander, I also loved that the novel took place in my home state with many references such as The Curious Iguana, an independent bookstore in Frederick and our hometown paper, The Baltimore Sun.  

Thanks to the authors and publisher Clarion Books/HMH for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  Pre-order now, for A Place at the Table will be released on May 12, 2020.


#Bookexcursion, #MustReadsin2020, Middle Grade Literature

My #MustReadsin2020

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Happy New Year! There are so many #mglit books being released in 2020! Thanks to the generosity of authors, publishers, and publicists, I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to read and review many of these titles before they are published  I am joining Carrie Gelson of There’s A Book for That and community of other book bloggers to share my #mustreadsin2020.

On my #mustreadin2020, there are 17 books I most look forward to reading.  Since I have ARCs of many of the novels, I will share my reviews on Beagles and Books prior to the book’s official release (listed in parenthesis).

  • From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks (January 2020)
  • Beginners Welcome by Cindy Baldwin (February 2020)
  • The Wonder of Wildflowers by Anna Staniszweski (February 2020)
  • The Midnight Hour by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder  (March 2020)
  • How to Make Friends with the Sea by Tanya Guerrero (March 2020)
  • Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson (April 2020)
  • Finally Something Mysterious by Doug Cornett (April 2020)
  • The Space Between Lost and Found by Sandy Stark-McGinnis (April 2020)
  • What Lane? by Torrey Maldonaldo  (April 2020)
  • A Dog Friendly Town by Josephine Cameron (May 2020)
  • A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi & Laura Shovan (May 2020)
  • Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai (May 2020)
  • Any Day With You by Mae Respicio (May 2020)
  • Quintessence by Jess Redman (May 2020)
  • Brave Like That by Lindsey Stoddard  (June 2020)
  • Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (August 2020)
  • Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie (September 2020)

Let the reading begin!