Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Remy Lai's 'Pie in the Sky' a Sweet but Sad Graphic-Novel Hybrid

One of my favorite recent reads is Pie in the Sky by debut author-illustrator Remy Lai. Winner of the SCBWI Sid Fleischman Humor Award and an NPR "Best Books of 2019" selection, Pie has received all kinds of love since its publication last year from Henry Holt. A hybrid graphic novel blended with traditional novel, it's like a perfect cake: the emotional content is challenging, but the humor keeps it light.

Middle-grade readers will go through a range of feelings as they get to know 11-year-old Jingwen. Not only has his mother uprooted the family to Australia, forcing Jingwen to adapt to a new home and new language, but he's got to be the responsible big brother to his utterly annoying younger sibling, Yanghao.

As the story unfolds, we learn about Jingwen and the almost paralyzing sadness he experiences over the loss of his father. Baking fancy cakes together on Sundays brought them closer — toward a "pie in the sky" dream of someday opening up a cake shop and leading a better life. But Jingwen carries too much sadness and guilt to adapt, and Lai shows us all the hurt: feeling like a literal alien at school, watching his little brother soar, realizing his old friend has forgotten him, disobeying his mother's orders.

Pie in the Sky satisfies on so many levels, accomplishing that most enviable feat of making readers laugh through their tears. This is a must-read.

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