Students will love reading From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks. In this realistic fiction, Zoe struggles to free her father, serving a sentence in prison for a crime he never committed, a disagreement with her best friend, and a desire to be on the Kid’s Bake Challenge television show.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington Summary
For Zoe’s 12th birthday, she and a group of her friends go to Ari’s Cakes to bake cupcakes. When Zoe gets home, she finds a letter from her biological dad who is in prison. This is a real shock for Zoe as she has never heard from Marcus before. Zoe runs up to her room to read the letter in private. He addresses her “My Little Tomato” and talks about music, specifically Stevie Wonder.
Grandma, who stays with Zoe while her parents are at work, takes Zoe to the library. There Zoe researches and discovers that many innocent people have been sent to prison. Zoe is surprised at the news. Trevor comes into the library. Finally, Zoe tells him that she overheard him telling Sean and Lincoln that Zoe wasn’t his friend. He apologizes and says he didn’t mean it. He was just trying to fit in. This is the start of them becoming friends again.
Grandma sees a letter addressed to Marcus when Zoe accidentally drops it on her way to the mailbox. The two sit down and talk. Grandma says she will help Zoe write to Marcus as long as the letters come to her house and she reads them first.
Zoe and Marcus begin talking on the phone. Marcus hesitates when Zoe asks for the name of his alibi. Zoe pushes Marcus to tell her what she wants to know. Marcus explains that he fought really hard the first years he was in prison but now has accepted his fate. He says he will be eligible for parole in 13 more years. Finally, Marcus gives Zoe the name of the witness – Susan Thomas.
With Trevor to help, Zoe sets off to find the only person that can help free her dad.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington
Free From the Desk of Zoe Washington Book Unit Samples
Grab your free novel study samples including vocabulary, comprehension questions, and constructed response writing prompt for Chapters 1-3 here.
Teaching Idea #1 – Printables
Zoe and Trevor lose time when they get on the wrong subway train heading in the opposite direction for where they are going.
Try planning some short trips on a subway in a major U.S. city.
Zoe’s hobby is baking. Watch an episode for Kid’s Baking Championship from the Food Network Channel. You can check out photos of some of the best dessert imposters here.
On Janae Marks’s site, you can find Zoe’s cereal cupcake recipe.
Zoe writes letters to Marcus on special stationery.
It was fancy white paper with one dark purple line going around the perimeter. On the top in script were the words:
From the Desk of Zoe Washington
Design a special stationery design. Use your special stationery to write a letter to a family member or friend.
Author Janae Marks created a Spotify playlist of all the songs mentioned in From the Desk of Zoe Washington. You can see it here.
Create a playlist to represent 5 major events in your life. Which songs would you include? Why did you select each song?
Teaching Idea #2 – Movie
On August 18, 2021, Disney Branded Television announced that an original movie based on From the Desk of Zoe Washington was in development.
Teaching Idea #3 – Video Reviews and Trailers
Teaching Idea #4 – Author Fan Face-off
If you are not familiar with Author Fan Face-off, you are in for a real treat. In this series, librarian Stacey Rattner and author Steve Shinkin play a game between the author of a book and a fan of the author/book to see who can answer the most questions related to the novel. This fun series will have you cheering for the fan to know more details about the book than the author. Look for more episodes of this fun series by using #authorfanfaceoff.
Teaching Idea #5 – Activities on the Web
You can check out Janae Marks’s website here.