From the Desk of Zoe Washington

From the Desk of Zoe Washington
Age Range
Release Date
January 14, 2020
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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.

Editor review

1 review
Baking up a storm
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Zoe lives in Boston with her mother and stepfather. Her best friend, Trevor, lives next door, but as summer starts, Zoe is still smarting from comments she heard Trevor make to his sporty friends about her, so she doesn't want to hang out with him. Luckily, her mother has a friend who runs a bakery, and Zoe has the opportunity to spend time there honing her skills so she can try out for a kids' version of a baking reality show. Unfortunately, she spends more of her time folding boxes than scooping batter, since the other workers don't trust a kid. When a letter arrives for her and turns out to be from the father she has never met because he is in prison, Zoe is curious and writes back. Her father seems very nice, and she slowly gets some more information about the murder he is accused of committing. Sure that her father is telling the truth that he didn't do it, she starts to investigate some leads, going with Trevor to find a women who remembers meeting him when she posted an ad on Craigslist. Her grandmother has been helping Zoe get the letters, but eventually the two have to come clean to her mom. Armed with her evidence, the family goes to Project Innocence to try to get her father released.
Good Points
Readers will be very happy to find a book about an African American girl who is solidly middle class, much like Isabella in Draper's Blended or Amara in Watson's Some Places More Than Others. I've been looking for books like this for years, and have been glad to see titles that don't take place in the inner city. Baking books, like Simon's The Cupcake Diaries and LaRocca's Midsummer's Mayhem, are fairly popular. Readers will enjoy trying out some of Zoe's recipes for Froot Loop cupcakes, and the details about having a parent in prison are thought provoking.

While Zoe's efforts to track down what happened to her father seem to go more easily than one would expect in real life, it is good to see her identify a problem and work to solve it. It's also good to see her working with her grandmother, even though her mother probably should have know what she was doing!

This has a fantastic cover, so I would purchase it just for that. It's a solid story, and I'll be looking forward to seeing what else Ms. Marks writes.
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