Friday, September 25, 2020

Freeform Friday: From the Desk of Zoe Washington - Janae Marks

At Reading for Sanity, we understand the importance of honoring different voices and experiences, especially those that are frequently marginalized or stigmatized.  In that vein, we have decided to dedicate more of our upcoming reviews to books and authors that offer Black, Indigenous, and Person of Color perspectives.   We'd also like to direct you to our new label (BIPOC Perspectives), located in the right sidebar, where you can find more books like this one.   

Summary: 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. (summary and image from

My Review: I really enjoyed getting to know Zoe as a character.  She's a typical twelve-year-old, with hobbies, friends, and family that she loves.  I adore her love of baking and her desire to become a pastry chef (and I want to try her Froot Loop cupcakes).  She's got a strong sense of motivation and drive, first in her desire to become a baker, but especially when she discovers her convict father might be innocent.

This book sends Zoe through the ringer of emotions--the excitement of possibly auditioning for a kids baking show, her fight with her ex-best friend, the thought her father might be innocent.  We get to journey along with Zoe and her growth as she navigates a world that, as we know, isn't always kind or fair to everyone.

The mystery of her father's alleged innocence, and Zoe's determination to prove it, kept me turning pages--that thrill of her finding more clues mixed with the dread of being found out and getting into serious trouble.  Her love for her father, and his for her, shone through in the sweet letters they wrote, and the ever growing playlist he shared with her.  These characters became very real to me, and I wanted them so desperately to succeed.

This book does not shy away from the issues at hand, but it does so in a way that is understandable to children, and will open their eyes.  Zoe gets weird looks when she's out with her white stepfather.  Zoe and her best friend Trevor have been taught how to behave when police are around.  Zoe learns that innocent people do go to jail, and that a majority of them tend to be black.  This book is a good way to introduce children (and us older kids at heart) to a world that many, many people have to live in daily, things even I wasn't fully aware of, and am striving now to better expand my world-view.  This book takes all that information and shows it through the lens of one determined little girl who will not stop until she has found the answers and makes a difference.

My rating: Four Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book was typical middle-grade fare, nothing offensive. It will raise important questions for children, which is good, about the prison system and race relations. 

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