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From the Desk of Zoe Washington

4.61  ·  Rating details ·  148 ratings  ·  56 reviews
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
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 14th 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books
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Average rating 4.61  · 
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Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to read this pitch perfect debut, by Janae Marks. Zoe is the kind of protagonist I love in middle grade books—ambitious, curious, strong—what I would describe as a take-charge kinda gal. She loves baking, which, hello, makes her the kind of kid I would have loved to be friends with in middle school. Not only does she love to bake, but she dreams of joining a junior baking competition, so that one day she can become a professional pastry chef. But her ...more
Kate O'Shaughnessy
Wow. Wow.

I LOVED this book!

Budding 12-year-old pastry chef Zoe Washington receives a letter on her birthday from her incarcerated father, Marcus... and it's the first time she's ever heard from him. He's in jail for a violent crime, but as Zoe continues to correspond with him, she starts to wonder if he might actually be innocent after all.

This book is about love, the highs and lows of friendship, baking (be ready to have intense cupcake cravings), complex family relationships, and the
Ms. Yingling
Sep 12, 2019 rated it liked it
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

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
Afoma Umesi
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing

Review on 14/01/20. Thanks to the publisher for an e-ARC of this novel.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington is a moving, true-to-life middle-grade novel that highlights just how potent perseverance can be — even when you’re just twelve. This book is one of those middle-grade novels that tackles issues without taking away the joy of the mundane.

Debut author Janae Marks explores parental incarceration, wrongful imprisonment, friendship missteps, and more in this novel. I
Arianne Costner
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this one!

Zoe is a great, strong character with a spot-on voice. The pacing kept me turning pages the whole time. There is a lot of intrigue to keep the reader interested. The way her relationship develops with her dad is so sweet, and the ending is really satisfying.

Grandma might’ve been my favorite character

Also, the food descriptions were scrumptious. Can someone please make me a fruit loops cupcake?
Kim Johnson
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: roaring20sdebut
Fabulously written and such a heart warming story. I was fortunate to have an advanced readers copy and just fell in love with Zoe and her dreams of being a pastry chef. Zoe finally receives a letter from her father for the first time who is incarcerated for a violent crime. The writer carefully crafted a heart warming story that is very approachable to the middle grade age and is much more hopeful and heartfelt than you might assume.

Zoe is a full blown character who is spunky, determined, and
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Every now and then, I read a middle grade book that is engaging, well-written, and fun to read, AND deals with issues so unique and important that I wish I could shove it into the hands of everyone I know. FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON is exactly that kind of book. Much of Zoe's life is pretty normal—she loves to bake and is thrilled to land a summer internship at a real bakery; she's on the outs with her best friend after an incident earlier in the summer; she longs for more responsibility ...more
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade
Zoe is so inspiring, determined, and full of heart. I loved how this book balanced deep and sweet relationships with the very real and important issues surrounding wrongful convictions - and that PoC are vastly more likely to be wrongfully convicted and abused by the justice system. Zoe's story not only brings light to the issue, but will empower young readers to make the changes they want to see in the world.
Cathleen Barnhart
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Janae Marks’ wonderful debut is an important and timely novel about systemic racism in the U.S that will engage middle school readers and have them both rooting for the main character, Zoe Washington, and questioning this country’s system of mass incarceration. Middle schoolers will relate to Zoe: she has dreams and goals; she’s currently not speaking to her best friend, Trevor, because he said something really mean about her; and she loves her parents but doesn’t always agree with them. On her ...more
Anuradha Rajurkar
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wndb
I read an early copy of this powerful debut, and I can't recommend it highly enough! The writing is clear and impactful, the characterization is pitch-perfect, and both plotting and premise make for a captivating read. I am blown away by this story.

Middle-school protagonist Zoe lives happily with her mother and stepfather, loves to bake, and dreams of being on a kids baking competition show. On her twelfth birthday, she receives a letter in the mail from Marcus, the biological father she's never
Shannon Doleski
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh I got to read this book before its release date, and it is lovely, lovely, lovely.
This book is two books in one - it is both a fun, sweet story of a girl who takes charge of her baking dream and a necessary, tough look at our justice system. Marks balances both expertly. Zoe is a little force and a terrific middle grade narrator. I loved her best when she was defying her parents. I think readers will too ;)
Listen you might be tempted to eat all the sweets while you read. And it's got a
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So sweet and lovely. My 9yo says this is in her top 2 ...more
Dec 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Zoe Washington just turned twelve and she has big plans. She wants to be on a kid's baking show, publish her own cookbook, and become a famous pastry chef. An internship at a local bakery will give her opportunities to work toward those aspirations. When a letter addressed to her from her bio dad appears in the mail on her birthday, she channels some of that energy in another direction -- proving her dad is innocent despite his conviction as a murderer before she was born. What this book does ...more
Ms. Woc Reader
I wasn't really sure what to expect with this story when I requested it. The cover was striking and it caught my eye right away. I also liked that it featured a bit of mystery in synopsis.

Incarceration of innocent black men is a tough topic to tackle. It's an important conversation that we need to have but often people just don't want to hear. I think black readers are often bombarded with this news on a daily basis that it wears on them.

This book was different because Marcus being in prison
Francesca Flores
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was so incredible! Zoe has such a strong voice that pulls you in and makes you want to know more about her-the passion she has for baking, her love for her family, and of course, the new emotions she experiences upon receiving a letter from her father, who's in prison. The emotion during the scenes where she read and wrote these letters just leapt off the page, and some of these scenes definitely made me tear up. Her dad's love for her and longing to be in her life were so strongly ...more
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to #Edelweiss+ and Katherine Tegen books for an eARC of this book.

FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON is the author’s middle grade debut, and what a way kick off her publishing career! I love that Zoe is passionate about baking, and desperately wants to be on the Food Network Kids Bake Challenge (I even made cupcakes inspired by her recipe, and hope there will be a recipe included in the final copy of the book). She even gets an opportunity to intern at a bakery, though it’s not quite how
Julianne DeSilva
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read an advanced reader copy of this book and I LOVED IT. It tackles so many issues, and does so with such poise. Zoe's father, Marcus, has been incarcerated since before she was born, jailed for a crime he says he did not commit. Zoe begins to research the crime, bent on determining if Marcus is telling the truth. I think Janae Marks does an incredible job of tackling such a heavy subject, making Zoe brave, but also vulnerable.
I also love that despite all of this heavy subject matter, Zoe is
Kaela Noel
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky to read an advance copy of From the Desk of Zoe Washington. Wow! Brisk, precisely written, with not a word out of place—this is a great and satisfying novel. I particularly loved Zoe's biological dad's character. He felt very real, and Zoe's complicated feelings about him were well handled, as was the involvement of her grandmother. The story deals with serious issues, but also feels somewhat gentle in tone and right for a middle grade audience.

I also really love books that include
Suzanne Nelson
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a timely, engaging, and tender middle-grade novel! Zoe Washington is a strong protagonist determined to face challenging family and friendship dilemmas without giving up, and she overcomes obstacles that even the adults in the story are having a difficult time facing. Zoe’s family and friendship issues are realistic, deftly-drawn, and poignant, and her passion for baking adds fun and inventive elements to her story as well. The book is also a platform for some important discussions about ...more
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely marvelous!! I loved this book so, so much, and I have to admit, I almost cried happy tears at the end. Janae Marks did a phenomenal job with this book, and I definitely recommend this book to anyone!
Laura (bbliophile)
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this one a lot! Full review to come.
Karen Fortunati
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I adored everything about this spectacular debut by Janae Marks. Smart, funny, honest - Zoe grabs the heart from the first page! Beautifully and sensitively written, Zoe's quest to learn more about her birth father hits all the right notes and wonderfully gets critical topics on reader's radars! A must read for any middle-grader!
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing

"But it was like when you drew something in pencil andthen tried to erase it -- the pencil lines would mostly goaway, but sometimes the indent would still be there, soyou could still sort of see what had been erased. That'show Trevor's apology felt -- like he was trying to erase mypain by saying he was sorry, but he couldn't make it alldisappear.
Maybe the pencil marks couldn't be erased, but at some point, you could decide to turn to a new
Lorie Barber
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Yes, I'm shouting. I want to get your attention so you buy this book and read it. The plot is crisp with wonderful pacing, the friendship subplot was also engaging, and the naming of racism and systemic racism is what kids need to be reading and talking about today.

This one's out Tuesday. I can't WAIT to talk this book with my students.
Shannon Takaoka
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: roaring20sdebut
I read FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON together with my 10-year-old son, and we both loved it so, so much. The story is set in motion when Zoe gets a letter from her biological father Marcus, from prison, on her 12th birthday. At first she’s surprised and even a little scared – she doesn’t know much about him or the crime that he’s in in prison for. But her desire to get to know her father soon sends her on a journey where she has to be open to questioning what she’s been told about him and his ...more
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of this book and could not recommend it more highly. The story is both well-written and engaging, certain to capture the attention of middle-school-aged readers. While the story of Zoe's friendship drama and baking dreams is fun and interesting, what will really interest readers is sure to be the story of Zoe's father, a man who's been in prison her whole life. This book is a great starting off point for discussion about the justice system in ...more
Sheila Averbuch
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An eye-opener (and tear-jerker) of a book that young readers will love: not everyone in jail deserves to be there. This story of 12-year old Zoe striking up a pen pal relationship with her incarcerated biological father is a book for our times, if ever there was one. A beautiful story full of hope. You'll probably cry, like I did, but it's worth it.
Tanita Davis
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
EXCEPTIONAL. What a privilege to get to be an early reader!
Laurie Hnatiuk
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade
Thank you to the Edelweiss+, Katherine Tegen Books and author Janae Marks for sharing a digital ARC with me.

Slightly over 300 pages, this book read quickly - you don’t want to put it down. Zoe lives with her mom and stepfather, and loves to bake. She has plans and focused, she is going to get her own cookbook and hopes to be a contestant on a Kids Baking Show. All of this changes when she inadvertently intercepts a letter from her biological father who is incarcerated for a horrible crime. It is
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Zoe is an inquisitive, strong, passionately determined twelve-year-old, and a talented baker to boot! In Janae Marks’ riveting debut, FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON (releasing 1/14/20), you’ll admire Zoe’s grit as she seeks the truth to her fathers incarceration when she chooses to respond to a letter she receives from him on her birthday. While this new communication weighs heavy on her mind, Zoe is also trying to perfect her baking skills to become a contestant on a Food Network show for ...more
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Janae Marks is an award-winning children's book author. She has an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Writing for Children and Young Adults from The New School. FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON is her debut middle grade novel. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and daughter. ...more