A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Janae Marks' From the Desk of Zoe Washington is about a 12-year-old African American girl who receives a letter from her imprisoned biological father, Marcus, and secretly begins corresponding with him. Zoe lives with her mother and her White stepfather. Her best friend Trevor's family occupies the other unit in the duplex where Zoe and her family live. When Marcus, who was convicted of murdering a college classmate, tells Zoe he's innocent, she sets out to find the alibi witness his attorney failed to track down. The imprisoned man bonds with his daughter by sending her recommendations of specific songs and artists for her playlist. One subplot revolves around Zoe's aspirations to audition for a kids' bake-off TV show and to publish a book published like a previous winner on the show.
- Parents say
- Kids say
12 year old Zoe is a remarkable 12 year old. She knows wh... Continue reading
What's the story?
When FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON opens, 12-year-old Zoe has received a letter from Marcus, the biological father she's never met. Marcus was sent to prison for murdering a classmate in his freshman year of college, before Zoe was born. She doesn't tell her parents that she got the letter, and she writes him back. Father and daughter develop a friendship, and Marcus tells Zoe that he's innocent. She investigates the case and sets out to find a possible alibi witness his attorney failed to track down. Other plot lines revolve around Zoe's evolving friendship with a boy her age and her aspirations to appear on a bake-off TV show and become a baker and cookbook author.
Is it any good?
This fun story covers several potentially scary topics with a light touch. In her debut novel, From the Desk of Zoe Washington, Janae Marks writes about a kid's experience of having a parent in prison, the day-to-day issues that come up for biracial families, and inequities in the criminal justice system. There are also some very sensitive and skillfully executed scenes of a boy and girl renegotiating their friendship as middle-school peer pressure begins to come between them. In one lovely sequence, the two young characters Zoe and Trevor, take their first trip on public transit without their parents: They almost miss their train, ride a stop in the wrong direction, and take a cab by themselves. The emotions in the story are accessible to younger readers, even if they're not ready to discuss all of the topics.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about when to be cautious and when to take a risk. What are the different risks Zoe takes over the course of From the Desk of Zoe Washington? Which ones seemed scariest to you?
Zoe and her father write to each other about their lives and bond by talking about music. Have you ever been separated from someone you were close to? What did you to maintain the relationship?
Zoe hides from her parents the fact that she's communicating with her biological father. Do you think Zoe made the right decision? Why do you think her grandmother and Trevor agree to help her keep her secret?
- Author: Janae Marks
- Genre: Family Life
- Topics: Cooking and Baking, Adventures, Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
- Publication date: February 27, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
- Last updated: August 13, 2020
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