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From the Desk of Zoe Washington

(Zoe Washington #1)

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  7,921 ratings  ·  1,452 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 fr
Hardcover, 291 pages
Published January 14th 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books
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Crizzle I actually did write them down!

Little Tomato Playlist:
To Zion - Lauren Hill
Golden - Jill Scott
Water Runs Dry - Boyz II Men
Hang On Little Tomato - Pink…more
I actually did write them down!

Little Tomato Playlist:
To Zion - Lauren Hill
Golden - Jill Scott
Water Runs Dry - Boyz II Men
Hang On Little Tomato - Pink Martini
Isn’t she Lovely - Stevie Wonder(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.32  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,921 ratings  ·  1,452 reviews

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Janae Marks
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Thank you so much to everyone for reading and reviewing my book! I'm so proud of this story. If you are interested, there are some book extras on my website, including a Spotify playlist featuring all of the songs mentioned in the book, a book club discussion guide, a teacher's guide for using the book to teach about criminal justice, and a Froot Loop cupcake recipe. You can find them here: Enjoy!!
~Janae Marks
Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)
I know I've said this a million times already this year, but wow, I really love middle grade. This was SO GOOD. ...more
4 stars

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks reminded me how great middle-grade can be. I rarely read it, and I’m not sure why. I enjoyed this one so much.

With one letter, Zoe Washington’s life changes on her twelfth birthday. Though she has her dad, Paul, she’s never met her father, Marcus. He’s been in prison her entire life. Then one day, she gets a letter from him. Marcus is in prison for a crime he never committed and Zoe is determined on clearing his name. On top of that, she’s w
Nov 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a children's book. I did not know what this book was about before I jumped into this book...which is how I like to jump into books. I have to say this book has so much important stuff in it. This young girl as to over come and get over some very hard stuff. I love that the parents so as their eyes open. I loved all this book, but the ending. I feel that the ending so not great, and it can not stand up with the rest of the book. This book is well written and so well done until the ending. ...more
Jenny Baker
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
A heartwarming and charming story narrated by the talented Bahni Turpin! A must-read for anyone who enjoys middle grade novels. It'll bring you tears of joy. ...more
Rachel Reads Ravenously
4.5 stars!

I think this book is such a fantastic middle grade novel! I loved the character of Zoe and her dreams of being a baking star, but also a young girl who wants to connect with her absent father. I thought this book was written really well and I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I would definitely read more by Janae Marks in the future.
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

First of all - I will listen to anything that Bahni Turpin narrates, she is truly wonderful.

Second of all - This book was great!

Zoe Washington turns 12 years old at the start of this book. On her Birthday, she receives a letter from her Father, who has been in prison since before she was born. She secretly begins corresponding with him and begins to question whether or not he is truly innocent. With her mind finally made up, she starts to do her own investigations about his al
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?
Lisa (Remarkablylisa)
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: june-2020
This one was a solid read but i felt the ending didn't give me the punch I got from other middle grade novels. This one had a storyline I never thought would be possible in middle grade and that's exactly why people need to read this genre more. ...more
Mar 19, 2021 rated it liked it
From the Desk of Zoe Washington consistently popped up in conversations during the year 2020 about which juvenile novel would win the Newbery Medal. It was Janae Marks's first book, but that hadn't stopped other authors from winning the highest award in American youth literature. Ultimately, it didn't get the Newbery, but after reading this book I see why so many believed it worthy. As she turns twelve years old, Zoe has plenty of goals for herself. One of the most audacious is earning a spot on ...more
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 he
Afoma (Reading Middle Grade)

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 co
Ms. B
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens, mhl, 2021
This was just enjoyable as a reread!
1/8/21 4.5 stars, what if you never met your biological dad because he is in prison? What if he might be innocent? This is what Zoe learns when she and her biological dad correspond through letters (view spoiler) the summer between 6th and 7th grade. In addition, Zoe likes to bake (she has a creative mind and likes to invent new recipes) and deals with friendship issues.
Tweens who are curious about social justice, fa
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps

On her twelfth birthday, Zoe receives a letter from her imprisoned father, whom she’s never met which begins an odyssey to figure out whether he’s wrongly convicted, or a lying murderer.

I couldn’t help falling in love with Zoe, her passion for baking and her quest to figure out the truth about her father. Her stubborn charm and earnest pursuit of her goals was authentic and endearing.

FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON tackles tough topics in a middle grade age appropriate
Krista Regester
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Never underestimate what children can teach you - or books about children!
Ellen Goodlett
Feb 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I made the mistake of starting this in the evening, and then I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish! Couldn’t put this page-turner down until I knew how it ended.
The tasty cupcake descriptions weren’t the only sweet thing about this book—I loved Zoe’s whole family (especially Grandma <3). Each one of them makes mistakes along the way, but they learn important lessons, forgive each other, and let go of past hurts.
This should be a must-read for any budding middle schoolers. Zoe navigates friend
Melanie  Brinkman
Sometimes we must tweak the recipe of life to make it right.

A letter awaits on Zoe's doorstep when she returns home from celebrating her 12th birthday. This is the first time she's heard from her father, Marcus, who's in prison for committing a violent crime. A crime he says he didn't commit. Zoe doesn't know how to feel, but the more they correspond, the more she starts to believe him.

Is he innocent? Zoe knows she must find out the truth even if it means hiding her investigation from family mem
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 an ...more
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
I liked this a lot! It seemed almost too sweet sometimes — like I felt her friend arc just seemed so predictable and the way Trevor spoke sometimes sounded robotic and like he knew exactly what to say and how to apologize. I also found the parents to be really annoying (except for Marcus.) But I loved how Black it was. I kinda would’ve liked a book with just Marcus and Zoe...
Liana Grace
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids
I loved this middle grade so much! I will read anything Janae Marks writes.
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Loved it - a storyline you don't see very often plus cupcakes! Who doesn't love cupcakes!? ...more
Scottsdale Public Library
There's depth in this story, there's power in this story, and there is a lot of fun in this story, too. Zoe is relatable and yet inspiring.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington will inspire you to be more determined, and the resolution will warm your heart. This book is fantastic! -Megan G.

The first thing that caught my eye about this book is the adorable cover. The story lives up to how adorable the cover art is, while also covering some heavy topics. On Zoe’s 12th birthday she finds a letter from h
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 importanc
Zoë ☆
Loved this 🥺✨ Such an important story and the main character is incredibly cute. Plus there's baking.... 🙊 Highly recommend this! ...more
Jordan Ifueko
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
hey cool cool i'm crying now ...more
Kadi P
This was predictable yet entertaining. I enjoyed the prison part of the storyline more than the baking part, the latter feeling like a filler because the former wasn’t enough to flesh out a whole 300 page book.

I liked the positivity here but I think the happily ever after ending came a little too quickly. The character development was great, if only the ending hadn’t been so rushed.

The messages shared within it regarding racism, the BLM movement, inadequacy of the justice system and prison refor
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2020
Normally I would dock a book like this for the wish fulfillment ending but I don’t care! I cried! It was so sweet. Zoe is great and her family and friends are wonderful. This is also a way to talk to kids about the criminal justice system and its many problems. Recommended for fans of Front Desk.
lily reads and other things
Nov 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wow. I loved this book, amazing. Beautiful.
(I'm not sure my rating so I'll change it if needed)
Aug 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
What an adorable book!
I loved listening to this, Zoe is so cute and I got really invested in her search to see if her dad was innocent. Zoe is pretty smart and I enjoyed her relationship with her grandmother. She's also an amazing baker, I would love to try a fruitloop cupcake!

Zoe's journey to get to know her biological dad and see if he's innocent was fun and entertaining. I was glad that Marcus was nice to Zoe and just wanted to be in her life. I also liked that Trevor stuck by her and was t
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​​Janae Marks has an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Writing for Children from The New School. She grew up in the suburbs of New York City, and now lives in Connecticut with her husband and daughter. From the Desk of Zoe Washington is her debut novel.

Other books in the series

Zoe Washington (2 books)
  • On Air with Zoe Washington

Articles featuring this book

Kim Johnson's upcoming YA debut This Is My America explores racial injustice against innocent black men who are criminally sentenced and the...
31 likes · 12 comments
“Do you think you can forgive Marcus now?” “Oh, honey,” she said, putting her hand on my shoulder. “If Marcus really is innocent, I hope you will forgive me for keeping him from you all these years. I hope you understand why I did it, that I was only trying to protect you. I still am, the best way I know how.” 1 likes
“But there was a tiny voice in the back of my brain. It told me to remember what I read in The Wrongfully Convicted, and in my research about the Innocence Project. It told me that Susan Thomas was out there somewhere, and she still might’ve seen Marcus that day. It told me not to lose hope. Not yet.” 0 likes
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