I’ve really enjoyed this cracking debut story from Janae Marks. Zoe Washington has never met her dad as he is serving time in jail for a serious crime. On her 12th birthday, she receives a letter from him, and subsequently begins a clandestine correspondence as her mum and stepdad do not want her to be in contact. Her father vehemently insists that he did not commit the crime he was convicted of and so Zoe decides to do what she can to help him prove his innocence, all while undertaking an internship at a local bakery to demonstrate to her parents that she’s good enough to audition for a TV baking programme.

This is a cleverly written, multi-layered book that definitely packs a punch: it highlights some hard hitting issues such as systemic racism and social injustice, but does so in a sensitive way for readers aged around 9 – 12, balancing the storyline with themes of friendship and family along with lighter moments around creative baking and some superb playlist track suggestions 🎵- I now can’t get Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered out of my head! It’s definitely a thought-provoking read, which is likely to raise many questions in readers’ minds and could usefully open the door to wider discussion both at home or at school.

The book also mentions the Innocence Project, which was set up in the early 90s to free the wrongfully convicted and bring reform to the US criminal justice system. I was interested to find out more about its work, and checked out its website – www.innocenceproject.org – which is well worth a browse if you have time. Some of the stats are simply frightening, with 232 exonerated clients collectively spending 3555 years wrongfully incarcerated. Did you know that over a quarter of US States currently have no compensation laws for those who were wrongfully convicted? Utterly shocking…

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