Publication Date: January 14, 2020
Genre: Family, Mystery, Realistic Fiction
Age Category: Middle Grade (MG)
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
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.
I’m a huge fan of baking shows on the Food Network, and while I wouldn’t consider baking one of my main hobbies, I do like to get in the kitchen every once in a while. Therefore, I really enjoyed how the protagonist, Zoe, had an interest in baking and entering a kids baking competition as a sub-plot of the novel. But in reality, this realistic fiction story was about much more than baking.
The main conflict was when Zoe found a letter in the mail on her twelfth birthday . . . and it was from her father, Marcus, who she’s never met due to him going to prison when she was a baby. Although she’s skeptical about writing back to her father at first, she begins to build a relationship with Marcus through their back and fourth written conversations. He even gave Zoe a new R&B song for her to listen to in each of his letters, which Zoe dubbed “Little’s Tomato’s Playlist” after Marcus’ nickname for her. Cute, right?
I truly enjoyed Zoe and Marcus’ relationship throughout the entire novel, and it was really refreshing to have a book that contains representation of the many fatherless daughters (and sons) that are around the world, specifically so among members of the Black community.
Other topics like systemic racism, the Black Lives Matter movement, and other examples of racial inequality were addressed in a conversation between Zoe and her grandmother. But I admire Janae Marks’ ability to address these topics which can be hard to swallow in a tasteful yet informative way, making this book a great option for kids of all races to learn about the ins and outs of racism and its effect on people of color.
Throughout the story, Zoe had to keep her letters a secret from most of her family–except for her grandmother, whom she has a very close relationship with, and her best friend Trevor–in order to continue to get to know her father. I was rooting for Zoe throughout the entire novel to prove her father innocent of his crime. And while her actions of sneaking out to do so ended up coming back to bite her towards the end, when both her and her blended family’s secrets are revealed, the revolution of this inspiring tale was like the icing on the cake.
Overall, if you’re looking for a book that will tear your heart into pieces and glue it back together again, From the Desk of Zoe Washington is the perfect middle-grade novel for you. From the likeable characters, to the well-delivered hard topics, to the African-American author and protagonist, this heartwarming novel is an appetizing choice that most kids in their pre-teens and teens will happily relate to, while learning important lessons along the way!
Rating: ★★★★✯ (4.5/5 stars)
Recommended Age: for readers 11/12+
Although this novel happened to be a book that I stumbled upon during a trip to a book store, I’m so thankful to God that I gave it a chance! If anyone else has added this to their TBR list, or is contemplating doing so, I highly recommend that you give this novel a try, as well. But if you have already read this literature masterpiece, please tell me some of your thoughts on it–or some other book recommendations–down below!
Have a beautiful and blessed day everyone! God bless you all and I’ll catch you later! Bye, for now! ♡