cover image Pie in the Sky

Pie in the Sky

Remy Lai. Holt, $21.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-31410-9

Lai centers her incisive illustrated novel debut on Jingwen, who moves from his unspecified home country to Australia with his mother and younger brother Yanghao after his father’s death. The boy mourns the loss of his father and feels like an alien among his fifth-grade classmates as he struggles to learn English, which sounds like “Martian words” (blue-tinged illustrations show others, then the boys, as space aliens in their daily life). Summoning memories of baking with Papa, Jingwen imagines the cakes they’d anticipated selling at Pie in the Sky, the bakery they planned to open upon moving. Jingwen vows to make the 12 cakes, believing this will preserve his memories of Papa—and that “cakes make everything better.” But his baking obsession leads to the betrayal of his hardworking mother’s trust, landing him and Yanghao in hot water. Though repetition of facts and dialogue (including the brothers’ penchant for calling each another “Booger”) at times thwarts the narrative flow, its pace accelerates in the final chapters as Lai adds a few surprise ingredients to concoct a deeply satisfying ending for this heartwarming immigrant story about sibling bonds, honesty, and surmounting obstacles. Ages 8–12. [em](May) [/em]