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Pie in the Sky

Book review by
Amanda Nojadera, Common Sense Media
Pie in the Sky Book Poster Image
Moving graphic novel hybrid explores immigration and grief.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about different types of cakes, how to back a cake, and might be inspired to try baking the rainbow cake recipe at the back of the book. They'll also see how difficult it can be learn another language.

Positive Messages

Communication is an important theme. You can be anything you want to be. Never give up. Don't be so quick to judge someone. It's OK to forgive yourself and others for their mistakes. Jingwen's Papa says that cakes help people forget about their problems when they're sad.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jingwen looks after his brother and reminds Yanghao about things he may have forgotten about Papa. Papa taught Jingwen to never give up and worked hard to give his family a better life than the one he had. He encouraged Jingwen to study hard in school so that he could do anything he wanted in life. Miss Scrappell helps Jingwen with his English. Ben is a kind friend and helps Jingwen feel like he belongs.

Violence

Papa died in a car crash and Jingwen carries a lot of emotional guilt throughout the story. The brothers fight and one ends up needing stitches. There are kids at school who make fun of Jingwen because he can't speak English.

Sex
Language

Characters use insults such as "booger," "stupid," "crap," "darn," "shut up," and "fudge."

Consumerism

Pop culture and brands mentions include The Little Prince, The Three Little Pigs, Fantastic Mr. FoxSpongebob Squarepants, Nutella, Honda, and Macca's. Jingwen said that his dad's cakes are cheap and he wanted his family to buy a cake for his birthday party.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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, 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."

User Reviews

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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 to make at his PIE IN THE SKY bakery before he unexpectedly died. Jingwen believes that if he bakes all the cakes that he'll no longer feel like an alien in Australia, his English will improve, and that 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 the 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 which 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?

Book details

Themes & Topics

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