A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Remy Lai's Pie in the Sky is a moving illustrated middle-grade novel about 11-year-old Jingwen's experience moving to a new country and learning English, and his cake-baking adventures with his little brother. The book delicately handles Jingwen's grief and the sense of guilt he feels over his dad's death while highlighting the importance of communication when coping with loss. The brothers use the oven to bake cakes while their mom is at work, and they sometimes fight with each other. One fight results in a character getting stitches. Jingwen has trouble fitting in at school, and kids make fun of him because he can't speak English. Characters use insults such as "booger," "stupid," "crap," "darn," "heck," "shut up," and "fudge."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Eleven-year-old Jingwen feels like he's just landed on Mars when he moves to Australia with his mom and little brother, Yanghao. He doesn't speak English and is having trouble making friends at school, unlike his little brother, who's adjusting nicely to their new life. The only thing that eases Jingwen's loneliness is baking cakes with Yanghao, especially the cakes their dad was going to make at his PIE IN THE SKY bakery before he unexpectedly died. Jingwen believes that if he bakes all the cakes, he'll no longer feel like an alien in Australia, his English will improve, and life will be better. There's just one problem: Jingwen and Yanghao can't use the oven while their mom's at work. Can they keep their cake-baking adventures a secret?
Is it any good?
Kids will love the charming illustrations, relatable sibling relationship, and scrumptious cake descriptions in Remy Lai's moving middle-grade tale. Lai pulls from her own childhood immigration experience and understands what it's like to feel like an outsider and how difficult it can be to learn a new language. Her illustrations are often laugh-out-loud funny, especially during the boys' secret cake-baking adventures, but they also literally depict Jingwen's loneliness and alienation.
Lai delicately handles the loss of a parent, and readers will feel Jingwen's sadness, regret, and guilt as details of his relationship with his dad are revealed. But as Jingwen bonds with his little brother and learns how to cope with his grief, kids will understand the importance of communication, and Pie in the Sky's heartwarming conclusion shows that cakes, kindness, and friendship make life better.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the theme of loss in Pie in the Sky. What books have you read in which the main character has lost one or both parents, or someone else they loved? In what ways do the characters react the same way? In what ways do they react differently?
Talk about the various kinds of diversity in the novel. Why are diverse representations important in children's and young adult literature?
Why do you think Remy Lai decided to write a story that mirrors her own life? What kind of power do immigrant stories hold?
How do the characters demonstrate communication and kindness? Why are these important character strengths?
- Author: Remy Lai
- Illustrator: Remy Lai
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, Inc.
- Publication date: May 14, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 384
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: February 4, 2020
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