Rummanah Aasi
Description: 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.

Review:  From the Desk of Zoe Washington is a timely and accessible read about institutionalized racism and injustice in the justice system for young readers. On her twelfth birthday, pastry chef Zoey gets a letter from her biological father, Marcus, whom she has never met and has been in prison her entire life. Despite her mother and step-father's wishes, Zoey is curious to learn more about Marcus and with the support of her grandmother writes back. Soon a tentative bond between Marcus and Zoe grows and Zoe's interest to learn more of Marcus' crime grows. After doing a brief search on the interest, Zoe uncovers that Marcus has been accused with murdering a college classmate. Marcus believes he is innocent and so does Zoe's grandmother, but what about Zoey and her parents? 
  I really appreciated how gracefully and sensitively this book handles a story about an incarcerated parent. Zoe is a compassionate heroine and though she is well aware her age is a barrier to finding the truth about Marcus, she becomes an activist by using her research skills, asking the tough questions that make adults around her uncomfortable, and utilizing her support network to the fullest extent. Zoe's frustrations with her best friend Trevor, who acts differently when he is with his friends, and her parent's differing viewpoints on Marcus make her relatable. I also loved the inclusion of the bakery aspect of the story as it highlights Zoe's creativity and balances out the serious topics with some lightness. I would definitely recommend this title to young readers who want to learn more about race and our flawed justice system.  

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is mention of murder but no graphic descriptions and details are described. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (Adapted for young readers edition), Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson, A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Ramee, The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon, and All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
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