Can you believe it’s December? Time is flying yet and we are getting so excited for all the Christmasy things around our house.
Today I am excited to share a review of a recent read of mine that was powerful and compelling while tackling a difficult topic for middle grade readers. From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks is a beautiful story about a girl getting to know her father who is in jail for a crime he says he never committed. A fascinating premise and a beautiful story!
Book 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.”
Zoe is a great protagonist — smart, talented, easy to love and cheer for. I loved seeing how she goes for her dreams. Her baking experiments are so fun! Loved the moments in the kitchen. Zoe’s relationships are at the center of this novel. Her journey to get to know her birth father was really tender and poignant. I enjoyed their letters and how they get to know each other. I also liked her journey with her friend Trevor and how they work out their friendship. Also her parents, her Grandma and how she fits Marcus into her world without pushing out her stepfather who has been a wonderful father to her. She makes mistakes along the way and even tells some pretty big lies but in the end, she tries to make things right and do better. Overall, I found Zoe to be quite mature and loved the great messages in Zoe’s story.
This is an important topic to write about but also a difficult one. A topic like wrongful imprisonment can be intense and conversations about it can get heated with lots of emotions. Overall, I think this story does a good job introducing some tough topics to kids. Issues like police brutality, wrongful imprisonment and systemic racism are important to discuss. However, at times it felt a bit preachy and made the issue a bit too “either you’re with us or against us”. Perhaps that was done to simplify for the younger audience. But it didn’t entirely work for me. I would have liked more nuance in the discussion of these issues. And perhaps more background on a few of the terms. Also, I would have appreciated more info at the end of the book from the author about where readers can learn more about some of these issues — both sides of the issues.
Overall, an engaging story. I loved the characters. Definitely an important, worthwhile read!
What books have impressed you with their discussion of difficult issues?
What are some of your favorite books about important issues?