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Pie in the Sky

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When eleven-year-old Jingwen moves to a new country, he feels like he’s landed on Mars. School is torture, making friends is impossible since he doesn’t speak English, and he's often stuck looking after his (extremely irritating) little brother, Yanghao. To distract himself from the loneliness, Jingwen daydreams about making all the cakes on the menu of Pie in the Sky, the When eleven-year-old Jingwen moves to a new country, he feels like he’s landed on Mars. School is torture, making friends is impossible since he doesn’t speak English, and he's often stuck looking after his (extremely irritating) little brother, Yanghao. To distract himself from the loneliness, Jingwen daydreams about making all the cakes on the menu of Pie in the Sky, the bakery his father had planned to open before he unexpectedly passed away. The only problem is his mother has laid down one major rule: the brothers are not to use the oven while she's at work. As Jingwen and Yanghao bake elaborate cakes, they'll have to cook up elaborate excuses to keep the cake making a secret from Mama. Told in prose and graphic novel elements, this middle-grade novel is about a boy's immigration experience, his annoying little brother, and their cake-baking hijinks!


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When eleven-year-old Jingwen moves to a new country, he feels like he’s landed on Mars. School is torture, making friends is impossible since he doesn’t speak English, and he's often stuck looking after his (extremely irritating) little brother, Yanghao. To distract himself from the loneliness, Jingwen daydreams about making all the cakes on the menu of Pie in the Sky, the When eleven-year-old Jingwen moves to a new country, he feels like he’s landed on Mars. School is torture, making friends is impossible since he doesn’t speak English, and he's often stuck looking after his (extremely irritating) little brother, Yanghao. To distract himself from the loneliness, Jingwen daydreams about making all the cakes on the menu of Pie in the Sky, the bakery his father had planned to open before he unexpectedly passed away. The only problem is his mother has laid down one major rule: the brothers are not to use the oven while she's at work. As Jingwen and Yanghao bake elaborate cakes, they'll have to cook up elaborate excuses to keep the cake making a secret from Mama. Told in prose and graphic novel elements, this middle-grade novel is about a boy's immigration experience, his annoying little brother, and their cake-baking hijinks!

30 review for Pie in the Sky

  1. 4 out of 5

    CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨

    My full review can be found in my blog, The Quiet Pond. There are books that I love -- and there are books, like Pie in the Sky, that stay in my heart forever. I loved this book so so much - prepare for me to YELL about this book. - A MG novel filled with gorgeous illustrations by Lai herself! - It follows two Chinese brothers who move to Australia with their mother, and how Jingwen, the older brother, navigates the challenges of moving to a new place. - This story explores immigration, assimilatio My full review can be found in my blog, The Quiet Pond. There are books that I love -- and there are books, like Pie in the Sky, that stay in my heart forever. I loved this book so so much - prepare for me to YELL about this book. - A MG novel filled with gorgeous illustrations by Lai herself! - It follows two Chinese brothers who move to Australia with their mother, and how Jingwen, the older brother, navigates the challenges of moving to a new place. - This story explores immigration, assimilation, language barriers (and how they affect kids Jingwen vs his little brother's age), and also grief. - Though this book made me laugh to myself for its sweet and wholesome narrative, there were also parts that HIT ME IN THE FEELS. I tear up just thinking about it. - I just... I felt this book so deeply. I love it with my whole heart. This is up there as one of my favourite MG books ever. Trigger/content warning: (view spoiler)[death of a parent (hide spoiler)]

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rajani LaRocca

    I was lucky enough to read this book before it was published...what a hilarious, poignent, GORGEOUS middle grade book! The feeling of being in a strange alien world, and then realizing YOU'RE the alien, will be familiar to every kid, immigrant or not, because that's part of growing up. I didn't see the fully illustrated product -- will add to this review when I do! But Remy Lai is insanely talented, and has a gift for words and art that make us laugh through our tears. READ THIS AS SOON AS YOU P I was lucky enough to read this book before it was published...what a hilarious, poignent, GORGEOUS middle grade book! The feeling of being in a strange alien world, and then realizing YOU'RE the alien, will be familiar to every kid, immigrant or not, because that's part of growing up. I didn't see the fully illustrated product -- will add to this review when I do! But Remy Lai is insanely talented, and has a gift for words and art that make us laugh through our tears. READ THIS AS SOON AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN!!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    This year, I stumbled into an unexpected pattern. Though I didn’t quite mean to, I ended up reading a whole slew of middle grade novels that were funny. I’m not avoiding the serious stuff, but through a series of unlikely events I found myself diving deep into funny book after funny book. Now a hilarious novel for children can go one of two ways. It can be simply amusing for the sake of amusement, making no attempt at being meaningful in any way. I have a grudging respect for these books, since This year, I stumbled into an unexpected pattern. Though I didn’t quite mean to, I ended up reading a whole slew of middle grade novels that were funny. I’m not avoiding the serious stuff, but through a series of unlikely events I found myself diving deep into funny book after funny book. Now a hilarious novel for children can go one of two ways. It can be simply amusing for the sake of amusement, making no attempt at being meaningful in any way. I have a grudging respect for these books, since I think it’s a lot harder to get them published in today’s market. The publishing world of the early 21st century has little tolerance for meaningless whimsy. Far more common, then, are the books that look funny and then, when you least expect it, hit you in the gut with – BAM! - Pathos!! It’s not a bad way to go about things, if the writing can pull off the switch. Pin in the Sky is by all accounts a debut, but it sure doesn’t feel that way. Gracefully switching between text and comics, comics and text, author Remy Lai feeds breadcrumbs (or, more accurately, cake crumbs) of humor and sequential art to kids, luring them towards a storyline with a deeper, darker meaning. For the kid that avoids serious stories like the plague, Pie in the Sky is the perfect gateway drug. There’s a whole lotta sad going on here, and a whole lotta humor as well. The end result is a balancing act that will keep you absorbed and reading until the end. Some kids love sports and some love reading and others love dance or games. Jingwen loves cake. Sort of makes sense. His grandparents run a cake shop and his dad was always making cakes before he died. In fact, his dad was even going to start his own fancy cake shop called Pie in the Sky where he and Jingwen would make things like chocolate raspberry tortes, Neapolitan mousse cake, apple mille-feuille, and more. Now Jingwen has moved to Australia with his mom and annoying little brother Yanghao. He doesn’t speak the language. He doesn’t have any friends. And there’s something about his dad’s death that’s weighing him down, like having heavy seashells in your pockets. The only thing Jingwen can think to do is to try and bake every single one of the cakes his father was going to make for Pie in the Sky. The trouble? His mom has forbidden him from using the stove while she’s away, and she’s away all the time! Now, faced with being moved back a grade if he doesn’t improve in school, Jingwen dedicates himself heart and soul to cake baking. But when your problems have nothing to do with pastries, how do you finally come to realize what’s really important? The thing about Pie in the Sky is that it’s technically playing fair right from the very start. Though the reveal that the dad is dead doesn’t happen until you’re already a couple chapters in (and by then you’re hooked) it’s early enough that it doesn’t feel like the author has pulled a weird tonal switcheroo on you. But let’s examine the book’s first chapter. You can tell a lot about a book by its first chapter. If, for example, Lai set this book up as some happy-go-lucky spree, you might feel betrayed later on when things get bleak. But from the get-go we understand instantly that (1) Jingwen and his immediate family have left their home to move to Australia (2) Not everyone from home came along (3) Yanghao is annoying and hilarious (4) As indicated by the thoroughly smashed cake, this story is going to be an interesting combination of awkward, sad, and funny all at once. All this in one chapter where the text is routinely punctuated with comic-style art. Recently I’ve become more and more interested in middle grade novels where bullying isn’t the stereotypical jock/mean girl/clique set of tropes that kids, by now, have internalized. Put simply, that stuff is boring. Saturday morning cartoon boring. If you’re going to have a character feel bullied in some way, let it come from nice kids. Because being hurt by a mean kid isn’t fun, but you can write that person off as mean. Getting hurt by a nice kid? A million times worse. In Pie in the Sky no one ever walks up to Jingwen to say something mean to him. But more than once he overhears a classmate and is able to understand just enough to know (or think) that they’re talking about him. Even then, what they’re saying is that he’s “slow”, particularly when it comes to speaking English. Not the worst insult, but it just kills him. You get this amazing moment when Jingwen (who’s been picturing himself as an alien ever since he arrived in Australia) looking in the bathroom mirror to find that because of their words he sees himself as more monstrous and grotesque rather than less (a trope that sort of peters out at the end, but oh well). Later, when he runs into those kids, one will just run away rather than deal with what he said. There’s a lot of truth to that, and it sure as heck beats watching someone get stuffed in a locker. As I read Pie in the Sky I noticed that Lai uses a specific technique in the book that feels familiar. The more I read, the more I felt that she was referencing Shaun Tan’s The Arrival on some level. It makes sense. Both Lai and Tan live in Australia. Both have firsthand knowledge of the immigrant experience, whether it’s their own or their parents. So when Lai depicts the English language as an alien series of indecipherable pictograms, I was reminded of how Tan did something similar in his books by cutting up English letters and rearranging them into unfamiliar (but beautiful) patterns. Another book, Here I Am by Patti Kim features art by Sonia Sánchez that is “wordless” by also making the English words impossible to read on the page. And, like Pie in the Sky, it’s about a child coming to a new country and new classroom, far from everything that’s ever felt familiar. Three books on a similar theme, one a graphic novel, one a picture book, and one an illustrated novel. Together they equal necessary purchases for your home or public library. So let’s talk a bit about Lai’s comics. First off, can I tell you how freakin’ thrilled I was when I found out Lai was a woman? I love two things in this world (possibly more, but for the purposes of this sentence we’re sticking with two): Funny female writers and female comic artists. To get both in one book blows my furry little mind. I mean, I was pretty much in Lai’s pocket from the first page onward. Wanna know how she hooked me? It was Yanghao. I think writers of middle grade everywhere could learn a lot from the creation of Yanghao. Loads and loads of novels are written every year on deeply sad, depressing topics. I mean, this book is dealing with grief and guilt and culture shock and immigration and more. It could bog down even the most valiant reader if not for Yanghao, that little jolt of joy. Is he annoying? Let’s just say I have never encounter a book for kids that used the word “Booger” as often as this one does (and I include William Joyce’s Billy’s Booger in that statement). But Yanghao is also honestly funny. Literally the first thing he does in the book is say on the airplane to his brother, holding up a barf bag with evident glee, “Jingwen! Jingwen! I’m puking in this bag!” I mean, right there, I was his. Funny then? Check. But then there’s just the fact that Lai is a really good artist. You notice this in a lot of little ways. Consider the moment when Yanghao, right at the beginning of the book, drops the rainbow cake from home (which, by the way, a clever book group would point out ties in perfectly with the baking of the rainbow cake at the end of the book). First you have on the left-hand page Yanghao’s enormous hands reaching towards you as he says, “Letmeholdthecake!” Then, on the opposite page, Lai cuts the image into two parts. A panel at the top, laid over the image beneath, shows the brothers looking down. Yanghao’s left hand is open in this funny little position. You know that moment when you’ve caused an accident and you just pause there, as if by holding still you can undo what you did? The smashed cake diagram that makes up the bottom-half of the page is, in and of itself, a work of beauty. Arrows indicate each color with wonderfully precise yet descriptive language. “Cat-Tongue Pink.” “Fire Orange.” “Snowy Cream.” It’s this mocking combination of the beauty of the internal layers, contrasted with the smashy smashyness of it all on the ground. And that’s just two pages! Somehow Lai was able to put that level of commitment and detail into the whole dang book! All 380 pages of it. Do you see now why I was so floored (pardon the pun)? The inevitable question I ask myself in a review of this type is whether or not there was anything in this book I would have liked to be a bit different. I guess. For example, I understand why Lai felt it necessary to never say what country Jingwen and Yanghao are leaving. If you fail to mention their point of origin then their story becomes a little more universal, right? I dunno, though. There’s a lot to be gained in specificity. We know that in interviews Ms. Lai has said that she borrowed elements of this tale from her own childhood, like the fact that she learned English when she was nine. We also know that she was born in Indonesia, grew up in Singapore, and now lives in Brisbane, Australia. As an adult I wanted the details of where exactly Jingwen and Yanghao were from, but the more I thought about it the more I took stock. Think of it from a kid’s point of view. To what degree are they going to care about where the brothers are coming from? Does it really matter in the course of the story? I remain undecided with this decision. I think I’ll just hand the book to kids and see if they ever mention it. Not every sad book for kids has to be leavened with humor and wit. Not every book needs to be filled with an array of luscious, yummy cakes. And not every illustrated novel has to be this good. But it helps. Consider this the easiest book to booktalk in the world. You play up the cakes, show the kids the cartoons, and voila! They’re instantly reading a story about the complications that come with family love and communication, letting go, not just of the people we love, but the guilt we’ve tied to their memories, and how much bravery it takes to admit when we’re wrong. That’s a whole lot of serious stuff for such a blithely funny work of fiction. If this is what Remy Lai's got going on straight out of the gate, I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. Even if it doesn’t involve cake. For ages 9-12.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Rawson Hill

    This book is going places. Funny, heartfelt, great art, timely topic. Just wonderful.

  5. 5 out of 5

    laurel [suspected bibliophile]

    11 year old Jingwen moves to Australia with his mother and annoying younger brother, and it's like he's landed on Mars. His English isn't great, school sucks, his little brother picks up English quickly, the other students think he's slow, and he's wracked with the guilt of memories of his father. But Jingwen has a solution. If he can just bake all of the cakes his father planned for his cake shop, life will get better. There's just one problem. Jingwen's mother won't allow him to bake. I requeste 11 year old Jingwen moves to Australia with his mother and annoying younger brother, and it's like he's landed on Mars. His English isn't great, school sucks, his little brother picks up English quickly, the other students think he's slow, and he's wracked with the guilt of memories of his father. But Jingwen has a solution. If he can just bake all of the cakes his father planned for his cake shop, life will get better. There's just one problem. Jingwen's mother won't allow him to bake. I requested this ARC from NetGalley because I thought that it was all graphic novel, but it's more of a regular novel with some comic illustrations thrown in here or there. The comics compliment the story and add more context and illustration (plus the way Yanghao is drawn is hilarious), but I kinda wished it had been done as a graphic novel in full instead. A lot happens in this book, but overall it's about fitting in and learning to face your fears and your grief, making friends, moving into a new place, and a little bit about coping mechanisms and communication. And of course, a lot about mixed messages, particularly when you don't speak the language but don't want to seem dumb or slow. Just make sure you've eaten something before reading this, because if you have zero willpower like you'll find yourself zipping into the grocery store at 8 am on a Sunday to pick up delicious cheesecake. And get stares from all the grocers, because who buys cheesecake at 8 am on Sunday? I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Truebluedah ♪

    I absolutely adored this book. ❤ At my age, there aren’t many middle grade books that satisfy me. But this one did! It was such a sweet, heartfelt book.I know how hard it is to feel like an alien. (Mostly cause I actually look like one.. 😂 And the story was so creative and well written. And guys... IT HAS PICTURES And they are evened out perfectly. Not too much so that it feels like a graphic novel, But not too little that it is like “where be all the pictures? 🙀🤔” This story of friendship, getting I absolutely adored this book. ❤️ At my age, there aren’t many middle grade books that satisfy me. But this one did! It was such a sweet, heartfelt book.I know how hard it is to feel like an alien. (Mostly cause I actually look like one.. 😂 And the story was so creative and well written. And guys... IT HAS PICTURES And they are evened out perfectly. Not too much so that it feels like a graphic novel, But not too little that it is like “where be all the pictures? 🙀🤔” This story of friendship, getting over doubt, and cakes was such a favorite for me. I can’t wait for y’all to read it! ❤️

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    Interest Level: 3-6 Imagine that you have to move to another country and you do not speak the language. How hard would it be to make friends? Eleven-year-old Jingwen is facing this exact situation. Jingwen, his mom, and his annoying little brother, Yanghao, are moving to Australia and they do not speak English very well. It was a dream of Jingwen's dad to move to Australia and open up a fancy bakery but he passed away unexpectedly before they could move. Jingwen's mom decided to go ahead with the Interest Level: 3-6 Imagine that you have to move to another country and you do not speak the language. How hard would it be to make friends? Eleven-year-old Jingwen is facing this exact situation. Jingwen, his mom, and his annoying little brother, Yanghao, are moving to Australia and they do not speak English very well. It was a dream of Jingwen's dad to move to Australia and open up a fancy bakery but he passed away unexpectedly before they could move. Jingwen's mom decided to go ahead with the move, and so they did. Jingwen feels like he is on Mars and is very frustrated trying to learn the language. He is not doing well in school or at making friends. He is even more frustrated when Yanghao seems to be picking up the language and making a friend. The only thing that makes Jingwen happy is baking, and he wants to make the twelve specialty cakes that his father wanted to make when they moved. The problem is, Jingwen's mom works in the late afternoon and night so Jingwen has to watch his little brother after school. His mom will not let him cook while she is gone because it could be too dangerous. Jingwen and Yanghao decide it is worth the sneaking around and lying because they are both so happy when they are baking. The problem is, all the lying begins to catch up with them and when an accident happens, the truth comes out. Will Jingwen be able to make all of the cakes in memory of his dad? Will he ever learn how to speak English? Will he ever make a true friend? Or will he always feel like he lives on Mars? This is a great heart-wrenching story of love, loss, and finding ones self. This was really a great story about not fitting in and the feeling of not belonging. All of the emotions that Jingwen go through will really pull at your heartstrings. It seems like everything is going against Jingwen and just when you think it can't get any worse for him, things go to a whole new level of low. I love the resilience and determination of Jingwen despite the odds against him. I also love how Remi Lai developed the character of Yanghao. At the beginning of the story I wanted spank the stew out of him, but as the story develops, so does he, and he becomes a kid that you love. This is just an all around great story with great characters. Don't miss this one! Follow me: Blog - Blazer Tales - https://blazertales.com/ Facebook - Laurie’s Library Place - https://www.facebook.com/LauriesLibra... Instagram - laurieslibrary - https://www.instagram.com/laurieslibr... Twitter - @laurieevans27 https://twitter.com/laurieevans27?lan... Goodreads - Laurie Purser - https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1... Pinterest - https://www.pinterest.com/auburngirl2... YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCulD...… Linkedin - https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurie-ev...

  8. 5 out of 5

    B.A. Wilson

    DISCLAIMER: Thank you to Netgalley, and the publisher, for allowing me to read an early copy of this book, which releases on May 14. Unfortunately, I'm the odd woman out, as I seem to be one of the only people who just really did not enjoy this and couldn't even force myself through to the end. Under the circumstances, you may want to take my review with a grain of salt. This obviously just wasn't for me. REVIEW: I wanted this to be a fascinating story about immigration, but I confess I didn’t e DISCLAIMER: Thank you to Netgalley, and the publisher, for allowing me to read an early copy of this book, which releases on May 14. Unfortunately, I'm the odd woman out, as I seem to be one of the only people who just really did not enjoy this and couldn't even force myself through to the end. Under the circumstances, you may want to take my review with a grain of salt. This obviously just wasn't for me. REVIEW: I wanted this to be a fascinating story about immigration, but I confess I didn’t even make it to the end. I’m just not a fan of this. The storytelling is pointless and frustrating. It lacks interest and authenticity, which is what I most wanted from this. The voice is very young for the age of the character, which I’m guessing to be probably 11 or 12? I’m not sure, and it is never made clear. All we know is that he is older than his 9-year-old brother is. The uncomfortable part for me is that the voice doesn’t match that of the maturity or development level of a middle school-aged student, and I just couldn’t get over it. His brain seems to process and share information on the level of a 6 or 7-year old. The artwork is all done in cool shades of blue, which is interesting, but this is not a true graphic novel (something I’m very disappointed about considering the issues in the storytelling). It transitions between panels of artwork to long blocks of tedious text. The long blocks of text are overly descriptive, in a way that is a bit frustrating to read, when they could have just shown me that information quickly through pictures….so I don’t exactly understand the logic behind the overall format of this story. If it doesn’t want to be a full graphic novel, then the storytelling in the long text sections needs to be significantly stronger and more interesting. Also, this has a very slow and boring start full of a lot of details that might be culturally relevant but that aren’t useful in introducing an interesting and exciting story. The storyline is so bogged down by specifics about stuff that just really does not matter. It forgets that it needs to first attract readers into the world and the main character’s life and make us actually care, before it piles on the endless details. Readers who don’t care and don’t invest are readers that don’t make it to the end of the story. Another thing that was tiring was that the dialogue is mostly useless and very repetitive (how many times can someone shout the word booger and discuss the alien languages---apparently a lot in just the first few chapters). I just couldn’t keep reading the same thing over and over again. The dialogue fails to move the story forward. I confess that I was already painfully bored and considering quitting by page 6, but I kept reading for several more chapters out of some sort of guilt. Unfortunately, this just never becomes the interesting, well-told story that I want it to be. The voice always rings false and feels unnatural, and both brothers speak as if they are 4-5 years younger than they are actually supposed to be, which is continually unsettling. It’s possible that both brothers had severe developmental delays that made them speak and act in ways that were far beneath their age and developmental levels, but if so, this was never made clear through the story. After a while, I just couldn’t take anymore and gave up. It became like nails on the chalkboard, and I found myself flipping forward just to see more of the artwork, which I enjoyed. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough artwork to make it worth reading all of that boring text that seemed to be going nowhere fast. The book is also described as laugh-out-loud funny in the description, but I never found any part of this funny. It was more annoying than anything. I think that overall, it was just a misguided attempt. I wish it was an actual graphic novel, instead of a story with some graphic panels, as I think that would have worked better. And while I really appreciate diversity in a story, it still has to be a well-told story, which this just isn’t. There are far better graphic novels, and stories of immigration, out there for middle school students. Honestly, I wouldn’t even call this middle grade. It would probably fare better with upper elementary students, such as 3rd-5th graders, considering the young voice and maturity levels of the MC and his brother.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kathie

    Jingwen, his brother, Yanghao, and their mother move to Australia, but it might as well Mars because neither of the boys speak any English. While Yanghao embraces their new community, Jingwen is stuck in the past and the life they left behind, including their grandparents cake shop, and their father who passed away a few years ago. Jingwen is convinced if he can just bake all of the cakes that he and his father had on their list for their dream cake shop, Pie in the Sky, that he will somehow be Jingwen, his brother, Yanghao, and their mother move to Australia, but it might as well Mars because neither of the boys speak any English. While Yanghao embraces their new community, Jingwen is stuck in the past and the life they left behind, including their grandparents cake shop, and their father who passed away a few years ago. Jingwen is convinced if he can just bake all of the cakes that he and his father had on their list for their dream cake shop, Pie in the Sky, that he will somehow be able to move on and not feel like he left his dad behind. But Jingwen is not allowed to use the oven while his mother is at work, so for his plan to succeed, he's going to have to keep a few secrets, including the fact he may be sent down a grade if his English doesn't improve very soon. Can Jingwen complete his mission, or does he risk losing more than he's already lost along the way. I love the illustrations in this book, which emphasize the humorous aspects and add so much to the story. The relationship between two brothers who are dealing with the move in different ways is heartwarming and relatable for many kids who have had to move to a new place, yet the added pressure of learning a new language without any preparation is an aspect about which many kids would benefit from reading. I suggest you don't read this book if you're hungry, because there are so many references to delicious cakes (and a recipe for a special rainbow cake at the end). I'm excited to get this book into the hands of young readers!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gigi H

    The premise of the book was intriguing and because I'm Asian, I like to support my own kind. I really liked the illustrations and was hoping this was going to be more of comic book, rather than novel. Unfortunately, the storytelling was a bit too long for my attention span and I felt this was more of a story catered to a younger audience. It read more like a children's book (between ages 6-9), rather than middle grade. **Thank you Raincoast Books & Henry Holt and Company for my ARC**

  11. 4 out of 5

    Abby Johnson

    SO GOOD. This is a really sweet (see what I did there?) story of a kid immigrating to a new country that feels like Mars since he doesn't speak English and can't understand anyone. This graphic novel / prose hybrid is a great choice for Wimpy Kid fans who like a little more meat to their story. It's both funny and serious - sweet and salty like the perfect salted caramel sauce. Full review coming on my blog! Stay tuned.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I was lucky enough to read this GORGEOUS book before it comes out. What a wonderful story! An incredible balance of humor and heartbreak with illustrations that will make you feel like you're experiencing a whole new country along with Jingwen. There's also a wonderful little brother and so many cakes. Read this one immediately!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    One of my favorite debuts of 2019! The prose and art in PIE IN THE SKY are both stunning. You'll fall immediately for the brothers and their secret cake-baking—and if you're especially weak-willed, you, like me, might end up baking several of the cakes yourself. ;) Update 5/2019: Just finished reading this aloud to Kate. It was a big hit!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I received this title as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book made me cry. Which really isn't a good thing because I do a lot of reading while on the treadmill at the gym. This is the story of Jingwen and his little brother, Yanghao, who have just moved with their widowed mother from China to Mars. Well, actually, it's Australia but it is close enough in Jingwen's mind. That is, until he realizes it's not everyone else who is an alien: he is. Jingwen struggles with lear I received this title as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book made me cry. Which really isn't a good thing because I do a lot of reading while on the treadmill at the gym. This is the story of Jingwen and his little brother, Yanghao, who have just moved with their widowed mother from China to Mars. Well, actually, it's Australia but it is close enough in Jingwen's mind. That is, until he realizes it's not everyone else who is an alien: he is. Jingwen struggles with learning English and making friends at school, despite his mother's assurances that he would do well with both. While watching Yanghao one day while their mother is at work, the boys decide to make a cake. Not just any cake. A Pie in the Sky Cake, like the ones their father wanted to bake in his very own cake shop, part of his dreaming of moving to Australia. The only problem? Their mother doesn't want them to bake while she's gone. So they start baking in secret. Jingwen is determined to bake all of the Pie in the Sky Cakes. Because maybe then he can make his father's dream come true. Because maybe then he can stop feeling guilt over his father's death. A brilliant tale of growing up, feeling like an outsider, and cake, Pie in the Sky is a beautifully written and illustrated book that readers of all ages and walks of life will love.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gillian

    PIE IN THE SKY is a stunning middle grade debut that will grab you from the very first page. When we meet Jingwen, he is moving to Australia with his mom and (annoying!) little brother Yanghao—we also learn Jingwen’s dad has recently passed away. Jingwen understandably struggles with his grief and with the challenges of living in a new country. He comes up with the plan to make every cake on the menu of the “Pie in the Sky” bakery, which his dad dreamed of opening. But Mom has forbidden the boys PIE IN THE SKY is a stunning middle grade debut that will grab you from the very first page. When we meet Jingwen, he is moving to Australia with his mom and (annoying!) little brother Yanghao—we also learn Jingwen’s dad has recently passed away. Jingwen understandably struggles with his grief and with the challenges of living in a new country. He comes up with the plan to make every cake on the menu of the “Pie in the Sky” bakery, which his dad dreamed of opening. But Mom has forbidden the boys from using the oven while she is at work, so their endeavor must remain secret. This story is about immigration, about family, and about grief... and it is also about SECRET CAKE BAKING! And silliness! And one of the most epic sibling battles I have ever seen on the page. Lai expertly weaves these elements together to create a story that will make readers laugh, cry, think, and feel. The adorably quirky illustrations will make young readers pick up this book. But it is the way the pictures and words work together that make Jingwen’s story both poignant and unforgettable.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Levy

    Remy Lai’s story and illustrations make perfect ingredients for this delight of a middle grade debut. In PIE IN THE SKY, Jingwen isn’t easily adapting to life in a new country. Struggling with every English word, it’s as if he’s landed on an an alien planet. Through a cake-baking journey of epic (or maybe, epicurean) proportions—and told alongside drawings that poignantly highlight Jingwen‘s struggles—Jingwen escapes his challenges in the tastiest of ways. I’m so glad that I got to read a pre-pu Remy Lai’s story and illustrations make perfect ingredients for this delight of a middle grade debut. In PIE IN THE SKY, Jingwen isn’t easily adapting to life in a new country. Struggling with every English word, it’s as if he’s landed on an an alien planet. Through a cake-baking journey of epic (or maybe, epicurean) proportions—and told alongside drawings that poignantly highlight Jingwen‘s struggles—Jingwen escapes his challenges in the tastiest of ways. I’m so glad that I got to read a pre-publication copy of PIE IN THE SKY. Kids will laugh and cry right along with Jingwen, and better understand what it’s like to start over somewhere new.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Jingwen and his younger brother are new to Australia and struggling to learn English and fit in at their new school. Jingwen is still processing the absence of his father as well. He attempts to keep his memories alive by baking cakes, something expressly forbidden by his mother. The characters are endearing with motivations and reasonings that are clear and understandable. Illustrations are sprinkled throughout. Well written but a little slow and there are other things I want to read more at th Jingwen and his younger brother are new to Australia and struggling to learn English and fit in at their new school. Jingwen is still processing the absence of his father as well. He attempts to keep his memories alive by baking cakes, something expressly forbidden by his mother. The characters are endearing with motivations and reasonings that are clear and understandable. Illustrations are sprinkled throughout. Well written but a little slow and there are other things I want to read more at the moment. Would recommend to kids!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    11-year-old Jingwen feels alienated and confused when his family moves to Australia. This book is really well written, and it covers immigration in a way that most children will be able to comprehend. Though the mix of novel and comic might remind readers of books like Big Nate, "Pie in the Sky" is meant for an older audience - it is a complex, sweet and at times heartbreaking story about loss, self-doubt and cakes.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kip

    AAAAAHHHHHHH I loved this book so much! First off, I absolutely love the way she represented how being completely lost in a foreign language and culture feels. YES YES YES. Kids who are going through this will really understand. And those boys--what rule-breakers! But I love that part of the rule-breaking involved making an elaborate list OF THEIR OWN RULES zomgggggg. So true to life. Finally, the deeper journey and character development was just astounding. Not to mention all the baking! An A+ AAAAAHHHHHHH I loved this book so much! First off, I absolutely love the way she represented how being completely lost in a foreign language and culture feels. YES YES YES. Kids who are going through this will really understand. And those boys--what rule-breakers! But I love that part of the rule-breaking involved making an elaborate list OF THEIR OWN RULES zomgggggg. So true to life. Finally, the deeper journey and character development was just astounding. Not to mention all the baking! An A+ read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    I devoured this illustrated debut novel by Remy Lai (see what I did there? 😉). Sure you’ll find plenty of delicious desserts, but enjoy the special relationship between brothers Jingwen and Yanghao best. Jingwen needs his little brother more than ever (and not just to hide evidence of their late-night baking escapades) as he is feeling alienated in their new country where he is grappling with learning the English language. Jingwen is also struggling with the sudden death of his father and he bel I devoured this illustrated debut novel by Remy Lai (see what I did there? 😉). Sure you’ll find plenty of delicious desserts, but enjoy the special relationship between brothers Jingwen and Yanghao best. Jingwen needs his little brother more than ever (and not just to hide evidence of their late-night baking escapades) as he is feeling alienated in their new country where he is grappling with learning the English language. Jingwen is also struggling with the sudden death of his father and he believes he has found a way to cope and begin to heal. There will be plenty of laughs, sweet moments, and maybe even a few tears as you read this touching story with delightful illustrations about feeling lost in more ways than one.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ramsey

    An gripping tale of finding where you belong and bring back memories by doing something you love to do.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    PIE IN THE SKY by Remy Lai will get readers thinking about life, death, finding your way, and cake! Great illustrated chapter book that tackles heavy topics in a thoughtful, humorous, and relatable way. Readers will love spending time with Yingwen.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Steph

    “I guess this is what it will be like from now on, me missing him whenever I’m happy. Salty and sweet.” So much sweetness in this book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Niki

    NOTE: I received an ARC via a book sharing group. The book is now available to purchase though. Jingwen and his mother and brother move to Australia, but it feels like Mars to Jingwen. He struggles with the language and missing his father, who passed away. Jingwen and his brother, Yanghao, begin to secretly make the cakes Jingwen had made back home with his father before he died. While there is a lot about Pie in the Sky that I can celebrate, including the strength of this novel for being "windows NOTE: I received an ARC via a book sharing group. The book is now available to purchase though. Jingwen and his mother and brother move to Australia, but it feels like Mars to Jingwen. He struggles with the language and missing his father, who passed away. Jingwen and his brother, Yanghao, begin to secretly make the cakes Jingwen had made back home with his father before he died. While there is a lot about Pie in the Sky that I can celebrate, including the strength of this novel for being "windows and mirrors" for newcomers, grief, and family dynamics, I also found the book long and Jingwen made so many poor choices it was hard to empathize with him as the book wore on. The sketches interspersed throughout are well-done and an appealing aspect of Pie in the Sky.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ipuna Black

    This book is beautiful, heartfelt, and funny! Moving to a new country and learning a new language and culture can make one feel like an alien! Remy does an excellent job showing the trials Jingwen faces and overcomes through baking his deceased father's recipes. Grief, love, and family are themes Remy covers well in this touching middle-grade book. And the illustrations are WOW! I strongly recommend this book!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michelle (FabBookReviews)

    Pie in the Sky, the debut from author-illustrator Remy Lai, has already launched to very strong and favourable reviews. An illustrated middle grade novel, Pie in the Sky is an often raw, very moving, funny, and deeply compelling story that follows a young boy named Jingwen, his little brother Yanghao and their mom, as they move to a new country- Australia- after the sudden death of their father. Leaving their grandparents and cake shop behind, Jingwen and Yanghao embark on a not-entirely-welcome Pie in the Sky, the debut from author-illustrator Remy Lai, has already launched to very strong and favourable reviews. An illustrated middle grade novel, Pie in the Sky is an often raw, very moving, funny, and deeply compelling story that follows a young boy named Jingwen, his little brother Yanghao and their mom, as they move to a new country- Australia- after the sudden death of their father. Leaving their grandparents and cake shop behind, Jingwen and Yanghao embark on a not-entirely-welcome adventure of a new home, new school, new language, new life without their father...almost new-everything. Only, it seems that while Yanghao and his mother appear to be more easily adapting to their alien life and lifestyle- including the use of their English language skills- Jingwen's heavy feeling of estrangement doesn't let up. Mourning his father and remembering their time spent together making cakes inspires Jingwen (and Yanghao) to make their fathers' favourite cakes. The boys have to keep this top secret from their mom, making things pretty hairy and entertaining, while providing Jingwen a way to hold his father close...and maybe, possibly, fix his broken and guilty heart. It is remarkable how much ground Lai covers in her debut- not only in terms of subject matter but also: the use of graphic art in particular to delineate Jingwen's experiences of alienation and uncertainty is so strong and affecting. From grief and guilt, newcomer experiences, to brothers, boogers and baking (lots and lots of delicious, mouthwateringly amazing baking), Lai's illustrated novel is a resonant, dynamic and wonderful read. I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own. Final edition published in two-color. Title has been published and is currently available.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Julie Christensen

    I was lucky enough to read an advance reader’s edition of Pie in the Sky and I absolutely loved it. The story is a special combination of sweetness (85%) and sadness (15%). It’s about Jingwen, who moves with his mom and his annoying younger brother Yanghao, to Australia. Poor Jingwen is still grieving the death of his father, AND being bested by his Yanghao, who picks up English much faster and just has an all-around better attitude about the move. The story’s got a lot of moving parts, and they I was lucky enough to read an advance reader’s edition of Pie in the Sky and I absolutely loved it. The story is a special combination of sweetness (85%) and sadness (15%). It’s about Jingwen, who moves with his mom and his annoying younger brother Yanghao, to Australia. Poor Jingwen is still grieving the death of his father, AND being bested by his Yanghao, who picks up English much faster and just has an all-around better attitude about the move. The story’s got a lot of moving parts, and they all come together beautifully at the end. The main theme of the book is baking cakes, and I loved reading about each individual cake Jingwen makes. Let’s just say this kid’s got some cake skills. A huge part of the book is the art – it’s the perfect combination of story with drawings, and the drawings are masterfully placed to continue the story where the words pause. Plus, I really love the way Remy Lai draws. Especially the way she draws cakes. I really, really wanted to put the book down a bunch of times to make some of the cakes in the story. My nine and ten year old son and daughter both read the book before me, and they loved it too. Now that I’m finished reading, I think this book is the reason my daughter has been in the kitchen the last two weekends, baking up batches of cookies, and on Sunday, a cake. I can’t recommend this book enough for any middle grade boy or girl. It covers friendships, sibling love/hate, feeling like an outsider, struggling in school, grief, moving to a new country, and, maybe most important of all: making big mistakes and then facing up those mistakes.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    A beautifully written and illustrated story about being out of place, about loss and recovery, and about trying to make magic happen when the deck is stacked against you.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    So thankful that Macmillan sent me an ARC of PIE IN THE SKY. Remy Lai told such an important story—about brothers, baking, immigration, fitting in, and grief and healing. Jingwen and his brother, Yanghao, bickered and bonded and baked, all while trying to navigate a new home and a new language. Their interactions were hilarious as they recreated their father’s recipes, and those moments were my favorite parts of the story, highlighting their very different personalities. For all the humor in the So thankful that Macmillan sent me an ARC of PIE IN THE SKY. Remy Lai told such an important story—about brothers, baking, immigration, fitting in, and grief and healing. Jingwen and his brother, Yanghao, bickered and bonded and baked, all while trying to navigate a new home and a new language. Their interactions were hilarious as they recreated their father’s recipes, and those moments were my favorite parts of the story, highlighting their very different personalities. For all the humor in the book, Lai wove in thoughtful threads of Jingwen’s struggles in a new country as well as the loss of his father. The ARC also included illustrations (drawn by the author), and they captured the heart of the words on the page so well. I loved this very special book!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tory

    Big thumbs-up on the portrayal of moving to a country where you don't speak the language. It's scary and hard! This also addressed the frustration of being out-performed by a younger sibling INCREDIBLY well. Hi, been there done that. 🙈 Less thrilled about the overall plot -- I get frustrated with stories of "I need to do the thing, and that will magically make everything better!" Because obviously it won't, and I'm frustrated on your behalf that you think it will. This kid needs some professional Big thumbs-up on the portrayal of moving to a country where you don't speak the language. It's scary and hard! This also addressed the frustration of being out-performed by a younger sibling INCREDIBLY well. Hi, been there done that. 🙈 Less thrilled about the overall plot -- I get frustrated with stories of "I need to do the thing, and that will magically make everything better!" Because obviously it won't, and I'm frustrated on your behalf that you think it will. This kid needs some professional therapy along with baking cakes. (Also, his paranoid anxiety ["everyone is talking about me"] was incredibly stressful for me, being someone who has anxiety as well.)

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