There is nothing Zoe Washington likes better than to bake. She is so excited about the Kids Bake Challenge for the Food Network. Low and behold, her entry wins her an internship at Ari’s cakes. She shows up all ready to bake, only to realize that she is relegated to the role of observer. Chef Victor does not allow her to participate in the cake creations until annoying Trevor buts his ideas into the mix. Suddenly, Arianna is telling the girl how to fill the cupcake cups halfway with batter from an ice cream scoop so that the mix has space to rise in the oven. What fun! Zoe is on her way to becoming a cupcake connoisseur! 

On the home front, the 12-year-old has mixed feelings about the letters that she begins to receive from her incarcerated father, Marcus Johnson. Her grandmother encourages contact between the two, but her mother forbids it. Her dad seems so nice; her calls her “my little tomato.” The relationship progresses, and her grandmother facilitates a phone conversation between them. The youngster is nervous at first, but the man’s voice is gentle and convivial, and they have a congenial talk. She is delighted that he seems so caring, but his conviction eats at her, and she struggles to find the words to question him about it. 

Marcus Johnson was convicted of murder.

Johnson did know the victim, but he had an alibi of a vendor from a garage sale that he was present at when the killing occurred. A destitute man of color, he was stuck with an uninterested public defender who did not adequately investigate the case or the man’s alibi. Instead, he urged Johnson to take a plea deal. When Zoe discovers this, she asks her father for the name of the alibi, which he does not provide. Then, in the local library, Zoe takes a look in the legal section. She discovers the existence of The Innocence Project. Zoe is desperate to help vindicate her dad, and she will do whatever she can to assist.  

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks, 2020

This book was interesting, yet disturbing in the light of recent murders of people of color by police officers.

Janae Marks’ web site