From the Desk of Zoe Washington (June 2021 Book Recommendation)

One of my favorite things about teaching in Florida was reading the books on the SSYRA list. Every year, the Sunshine State Young Readers Award Program compiles a list of 15 amazing books for students in grades 3-5 (and a separate list for grades 6-8). Near the end of the year, students across Florida vote for a winner. The kids get really into it!

I love it because the books are usually ones that have been published recently. It’s an excellent way to read some new material without having to Google “New Books for Elementary” and sift through ALL the titles that pop up. I hope you’ll check out those lists.

I just started reading the books for 2021-22 and, wow, we are off to a fantastic start! I recently finished From the ​Desk of Zoe Washington, by Janae Marks, (copyright 2020) and I’d highly recommend it.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington

The book is about a 12-year-old girl, Zoe, who returns from her birthday party to find a letter from her biological father in the mailbox. Zoe has never met her father, Marcus, because he’s been in jail her whole life. Zoe’s mom has never allowed her to contact Marcus because she doesn’t want her daughter communicating with a criminal. However, Zoe notices that Marcus seems nice in his letters. He likes cooking, just like she does. Zoe loves his music recommendations too.

One day, when Marcus writes to Zoe and says he’s innocent, Zoe assumes he’s lying. She wonders how a man could have been sentenced to 25 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. She decides to read more about this and is shocked at the number of people who are wrongfully imprisoned — most of whom are Black men. Zoe then dedicates herself to finding out as much as she can about her father’s trial, the crime he was arrested for, and a person who can help prove his innocence.

Zoe does all of this while interning at a bakery, proving she has the talent to appear on a kids baking TV show, and mending a friendship with a neighbor who she had been friends with for years.

I’ve created 12 quizzes and 12 writing prompts if you need resources to help you teach this book. The quizzes are perfect for quick comprehension checks. The writing prompts can be used to start discussions if you’d prefer. Everything is available in a Google Form and PDF. It’s available in my TpT store for $4.95.

I just started reading a second book on the SSYRA list, Charlie & Frog. I’ll write another post here with details about this book as soon as I finish it.

Thank you for all that you do for your students!