Pie in the Sky is the story of a pair of brothers who have moved to Australia with their mother… sure, it’s thousands of miles away from their home, but to them, it could be another planet. While Jingwen, aged 11, is homesick and has a rough time learning English, his nine-year-old brother, Yanghoa has no problem jumping into this new situation and trying the new language. Jingwen’s struggles are only compounded by the pain of the loss of his father in a car accident the year before. The boys’ father worked at the family’s cake shop, and he and Jingwen used to practice new recipes together on Sundays.
The brothers spend much of their afternoons alone in their apartment together while their mother goes to work from 4:30pm-3:30am. Jingwen is responsible for his brother during this time, and together they come up with a way to stave off boredom by baking all the cakes he and his father used to make. A series of hilarious mishaps ensue as they try to hide their secret baking from their mother. There are serious consequences to their confections though… It may help Jingwen’s troubles with making friends at school, and his grief at home.
The narration of the story is broken up with some cartoony drawings that help to liven up this middle-grade book. Lai writes of the boys’ experience using some easy-to-understand, yet vivd metaphors (feeling like an alien), which should be great for this age group. Jingwen is faced with realistic conflicts of a 12-year-old boy, serious ones like taking care of his brother, learning a language, and learning the difference between lies, and what the consequences of those lies are. Combined, it is a strongly emotional read, that I ripped through in one sitting.
Filled with a sweet mix of brotherly fights and family togetherness, but also the grief of a lost parent and a disorienting move, Pie is the Sky is a very good book that I would definitely recommend.
4 out of 5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley, Macmillan Children’s, and the author for an advanced copy for review.