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From the Desk of Zoe Washington
Cover of From the Desk of Zoe Washington
From the Desk of Zoe Washington
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month * #1 Kids Indie Next List * A Parents Magazine Best Book of 2020 * SLJ Best Book of 2020 * A Junior Library Guild Selection * Four Starred Reviews From debut author...
An Amazon Best Book of the Month * #1 Kids Indie Next List * A Parents Magazine Best Book of 2020 * SLJ Best Book of 2020 * A Junior Library Guild Selection * Four Starred Reviews From debut author...
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  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month * #1 Kids Indie Next List * A Parents Magazine Best Book of 2020 * SLJ Best Book of 2020 * A Junior Library Guild Selection * Four Starred Reviews

    From debut author Janae Marks comes a captivating story full of heart, as one courageous girl questions assumptions, searches for the truth, and does what she believes is right—even in the face of great opposition.

    Zoe Washington isn't sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she's never met, hadn't heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who's been in prison for a terrible crime?

    A crime he says he never committed.

    Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe's worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she's worthy of auditioning for Food Network's Kids Bake Challenge.

    But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus's conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn't know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.

    "When Marcus tells Zoe he is innocent, and her grandmother agrees, Zoe begins to learn about inequality in the criminal justice system, and she sets out to find the alibi witness who can prove his innocence." (Publishers Weekly, "An Anti-Racist Children's and YA Reading List")

About the Author-

  • Janae Marks graduated from the New School with an MFA in writing for children. When she isn't writing fiction, she's spending time with her husband and daughter at home in Connecticut. From the Desk of Zoe Washington is her debut novel. Visit Janae online at www.janaemarks.com.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    October 1, 2019
    After receiving a letter from her incarcerated father, whom she's never met, 12-year-old Zoe sets out to prove his innocence. It's the summer before seventh grade, and aspiring pastry chef Zoe sets her sights on perfecting her baking skills to audition as a contestant on Food Network's Kids Bake Challenge. One day, she receives a letter from her father, Marcus, who was sent to prison for murder right before Zoe was born. She's never met Marcus, and her mother wants her to have nothing to do with him. So Zoe keeps the letter a secret and begins corresponding with Marcus on a regular basis. He shares his favorite songs and encourages Zoe's baking-competition dreams. When Marcus proclaims his innocence, Zoe is shocked: How could someone innocent end up in prison? With the help of her grandmother and her friend Trevor, Zoe begins to learn about systemic racism and how black people like her and Marcus are more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than white people. Zoe's relationship with Marcus is at the center of the novel, but her relationships with her mother, stepfather, grandmother, and Trevor are also richly conveyed. This powerful debut packs both depth and sweetness, tackling a tough topic in a sensitive, compelling way. An extraordinary, timely, must-read debut about love, family, friendship, and justice. (Fiction. 8-12)

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from November 4, 2019
    On her 12th birthday, Zoe Washington receives a letter from Marcus, the biological father she’s never met, who has been serving time for murder since just before Zoe’s birth. Zoe’s mother and stepfather don’t want her in touch with Marcus, but Zoe, curious, strikes up a correspondence with the help of her maternal grandmother, who believes Marcus to be “a good person at heart.” Aspiring pastry chef Zoe grows busy as she makes up with her best friend Trevor, writes to Marcus, and interns at a family friend’s bakery, where she hopes to prove to her parents that she could compete on Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge. When Marcus tells Zoe he is innocent, and her grandmother agrees, Zoe begins to learn about inequality in the criminal justice system, and she and Trevor set out to find the alibi witness who can prove his innocence. Debut author Marks seamlessly weaves timely discussions about institutionalized racism into this uplifting and engaging story that packs an emotional punch. Zoe is a relatable tween, with friendship and familial frustrations that will resonate with readers. Ages 8–12. Agent: Alexander Slater, Trident Media Group.

  • School Library Journal

    January 17, 2020

    Gr 4 Up-On her 12th birthday, Zoe Washington receives a letter from her birth father, Marcus, who has been in prison her entire life. He wants to get to know her, and even though she knows her mom won't like it, she writes back. In their letters they bond over a shared love of baking-Zoe is interning at a Boston-area bakery over the summer and dreams of becoming a pastry chef-and music. When Marcus dodges Zoe's questions about the crime he committed, she Googles him and is horrified to discover that he was accused of murdering a college classmate. But Marcus also claims he's innocent and that there's even a witness out there who could prove it. Zoe doesn't know what to believe-can innocent people really go to prison? In the course of researching wrongful convictions, she learns about racial bias in the prison system (Zoe and her biological parents are black, a stepfather is white) and decides to search for the alibi witness herself, even though Marcus doesn't want her to get involved. But keeping secrets from her mom quickly gets Zoe in over her head, jeopardizing her chances of obtaining the information she needs to save Marcus. This is one of only a small handful of middle grade novels to explore the experience of having a parent in prison, and the subject is handled with grace and sensitivity. It also exposes the important and timely issue of racial bias in the prison system in a way that is approachable to a middle grade audience. Zoe is a bright, compassionate protagonist for whom readers will root. She is supported by a loving family whose viewpoints differ yet who all want the best for her. The baking subplot will have readers itching to try out Zoe's recipes. VERDICT A smart, necessary, and hopeful middle grade debut that expertly balances a gentle, heartwarming tone with searing insight into systemic racism. Hand to readers who enjoyed Lisa Ramee's A Good Kind of Trouble or Kekla Magoon's The Season of Styx Malone.-Elizabeth Giles, Lubuto Library Partners, Zambia

    Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from November 15, 2019
    Grades 4-7 *Starred Review* This exceptionally sweet debut from Marks illustrates profound cracks in the American criminal justice system while telling an affecting story grounded in the middle-grade experience. Zoe Washington, a soon-to-be seventh-grader growing up outside Boston, is celebrating a birthday bereft of friends due to distance and betrayal, when a surprise letter from her incarcerated father arrives and throws her life into emotional disarray. The clandestine correspondence they strike up, letters and a few phone calls facilitated by her maternal grandmother, has to be kept a secret from her mother, especially once Zoe decides to investigate whether her father is truly guilty of the dreadful crime that sent him to prison before she was born. Marks tells this story of forgiveness and redemption in a way that will make sense to tween readers without being patronizing or overly complicated. The troubling ways race affects the characters?Zoe, who is Black, is subjected to microaggressions when out in public with her white stepfather and Black mother, and she questions whether her father would have been treated differently if he looked less like a typical suspect?will facilitate important conversations about racial profiling and incarceration rates for people of color. Fortunately, Marks' capable storytelling and engaging characters also combine into a wondrous confection of a book, full of heart and hope and promise.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

  • Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books "Marks delivers a spirited central character whose determination to get to the truth is admirable. An involving family story, this novel could also serve as an introduction to social justice for elementary schoolers."
  • School Library Journal (starred review) "A smart, necessary, and hopeful middle grade debut that expertly balances a gentle, heartwarming tone with searing insight into systemic racism."
  • Jodi Kendall, author of The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City "A touching, tender, and absorbing read!"
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Debut author Marks seamlessly weaves timely discussions about institutionalized racism into this uplifting and engaging story that packs an emotional punch."
  • Tanita S. Davis, author of Mare’s War "Marks tackles the complex costs of the pursuit of justice and motivates readers to feel equipped—and energized—to stand up for what's right, right now. Readers will recognize that, like Zoe Washington, they need not wait until they grow up to make their actions count."
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "This powerful debut packs both depth and sweetness, tackling a tough topic in a sensitive, compelling way. An extraordinary, timely, must-read debut about love, family, friendship, and justice."
  • Booklist (starred review) "This exceptionally sweet debut from Marks illustrates profound cracks in the American criminal justice system while telling an affecting story grounded in the middle-grade experience. The troubling ways race affects the characters...will facilitate important conversations about racial profiling and incarceration rates for people of color. Fortunately, Marks' capable storytelling and engaging characters also combine into a wondrous confection of a book, full of heart and hope and promise."
  • Jewell Parker Rhodes, New York Times bestselling author of Ghost Boys "A delightful confection of a novel! Zoe is a wondrous heroine who inspires a deeper love for food, family, and friends. Advocating for social justice, she creates a new recipe for a better, sweeter world. An enticing and enthralling debut from Janae Marks."
  • Coe Booth, author of Kinda Like Brothers "With a dash of mystery, sprinkle of passion, and whole lot of heart, From the Desk of Zoe Washington has found a winning recipe."
  • Buffalo News "[A] marvelous debut novel by Janae Marks for middle-grade readers... a compelling mystery... Marks has managed to write a middle-grade novel that explores racial justice issues and addresses the routine bias Zoe faces while also dealing with coming-of-age issues... The book serves as a valuable introduction to The Innocence Project for its target audience."

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    Katherine Tegen Books
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