Pie in the Sky

Holt. May 2019. 384p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781250314093; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781250314109.
Gr 3-6–Having recently immigrated to Australia, 11-year-old Jingwen feels like he’s been dropped onto a strange planet full of gibberish-spouting aliens. He knows life would be easier if he learned more English like his annoyingly chipper, too-loud, too-energetic little brother Yanghao. But guilt over his father’s accidental death festers. Worried that assimilating into Australian culture means he’s forsaking his father’s memory, Jingwen latches on to the idea that if he can make all the cakes his father planned to feature on the menu of his dream bakery, Pie in the Sky, then everything will be okay. Even if that means disobeying his mother’s rules while she’s working the night shift at a local bakery. Written from Jingwen’s perspective, the text is augmented with humorous, often exaggerated black and blue spot and sequential paneled illustrations that offer a visual window into Jingwen’s experiences and emotions. Frequent flashbacks to Jingwen’s younger years in his (unnamed) country of origin contribute to strong character and relationship development and to the satisfying conclusion. Whether Jingwen and Yanghao are teasing, supporting, or bickering with each other, their relationship rings true. The humor, akin to that of Jeff Kinney’s popular “Wimpy Kid” series, occasionally veers into the delightfully gross, such as when Yanghao barfs from one too many slices of cake.
VERDICT A first purchase for all libraries, this #OwnVoices hybrid chapter book/graphic novel is the perfect mixture of funny and emotionally resonant.

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