Review of Pie in the Sky

Pie in the Sky
by Remy Lai; illus. by the author
Intermediate    Holt    380 pp.
5/19    978-1-250-31409-3    $21.99   
Paper ed.  978-1-250-31410-9    $12.99

It’s been almost two years since Jingwen lost his father in a tragic accident; he now finds himself starting over in a new country. The novel begins with Jingwen, his mother, and his (annoying) younger brother Yanghao landing in Australia, where Jingwen does not know the language and isn’t interested in learning English or making friends at his new school. All Jingwen wants to do is bake the elaborate cakes he and his father perfected (in preparation for the cake shop his father was going to open in Australia called “Pie in the Sky”) without his strict mother finding out that he is breaking her no-baking rule. Lai’s debut illustrated middle-grade novel delves into Jingwen’s grief and onerous fraternal responsibilities while providing a window into the strain of adjusting to life in an “alien” world. Jingwen’s journey through loss will resonate with readers, while his quest to bake all the “Pie in the Sky” cakes deepens this story from typical middle-grade tearjerker to delectable page-turner. Lai’s frequent, blue-tinged illustrations provide comic relief (the interactions between Jingwen and Yanghao are often hilarious) and serve to propel the narrative forward; they often include diagrams of the impressive confections Jingwen bakes. Heartbreakingly honest; in equal parts funny and poignant.

From the July/August 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Eric Carpenter
Eric Carpenter
Eric Carpenter is the school librarian at Fred A. Toomer Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia.

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