Pie in the sky by Remy Lai

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Walker Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781250314093. 384pp.
(Age: 9+) Recommended. Pie in the sky is the debut novel by author/illustrator Remy Lai and will appeal to children who like graphic novels and is a fantastic way to move from the graphic novel genre into narrative fiction. The story revolves around Jingwen who has moved from his home country to Australia with his mum and 'annoying brother' Yanghao. In Australia he struggles to make sense of the language and schooling, while at home his mum is working long hours and is rarely at home. As the story progresses the reader learns that Jingwen's father has died prior to leaving his old home and his grandparents have stayed behind as well to look after their cake shop. The plan was for Jingwen's family to move to Australia and open a cake shop called 'Pie in the sky', and as the story progresses Jingwen enlists the help of his brother to bake the cakes that he and his father had planned to sell, even though his mother has forbidden him to use the oven when she is not at home.
This book is an engaging read although some children may find it difficult to follow the story as it chops and changes between graphic novel, illustration and written narrative that at times feels repetitive and bogged down in unnecessary details. However, the story allows children to think about the struggles of those who are immigrating to a new country with 'alien' languages and different customs and may inspire them to be kinder to those around them, including their siblings.
Jingwen is a relatable character who will engage the younger reader and will allow all readers to delve into the life of the main character and the family surrounding him. The author also encourages the reader to think about how the loss of a parent might affect them and the ways that memories can be kept alive through repeated activity, even when you have been forbidden to do so!
The addition of a cake recipe at the back is a fantastic addition as the book focuses on the baking of cakes which leaves the reader with the desire to taste the creations of Jingwen and his father. Teacher's notes are available. Themes: Family, Migration, Graphic novel/fiction hybrid, Grief, Cooking, Siblings.
Mhairi Alcorn