The Iowa Children’s Choice Award books this year cover a wide array of interests and are certainly catered to very different youth audiences. “Pie” by Sarah Weeks is more of a general audience pleasing book without a direct theme and could easily be enjoyed by multiple groups. It features Alice Anderson, a young gal whose imperfect family includes a nearly perfect and exceedingly lovable aunt. Aunt Polly is the town’s famous pie baker and with each cherry filling or lattice top crust, love and affection goes into every bite of a Polly pie. Everything goes into disarray when Polly suddenly dies, leaving her curmudgeonly cat Lardo to Alice and her famous pie crust recipe to Lardo. While Alice is distraught at the loss of her loving aunt, the rest of the town seems distraught over the loss of delicious, award-winning pies. That is, those who aren’t greening with envy and working to master their own award-winning pies, are upset. As if the Alice’s pain isn’t enough already, someone not only breaks into Polly’s pie shop leaving everything destroyed but also catnaps Lardo. Alice is left with mystery after mystery as she works to find Lardo, discover who is trying to steal her aunt’s recipe, unveil the mysterious identity of a reporter who won’t stop asking questions, and keep her mother from baking another disastrous pie.
I enjoyed this book for two important reasons: 1. there was a lot of pie involved. Seriously. About ten different recipes throughout the book that look delicious. And 2. Weeks did a good job of showing an imperfect family dynamic. Literature, especially youth literature, tends to feature non-traditional family structures but portrays them and any other description of “family” as a happy and cohesive unit. I appreciated that Alice’s family was a tangled mess (for most of the book, anyway). Parents can be selfish sometimes. Children can be mature sometimes. Sometimes families fight and sometimes family need to be reminded that they love each other. The part I disliked the most though was the epilogue. The book would have been fine (better) without it. Weeks, for whatever reason, decided the reader needed to know what kind of adult Alice grows up to be and it is not a very pretty picture when a lovable young gal grows up to be an old woman stuck in the past. Read this book but stop before the epilogue if you want a genuinely happy ending.
– a post from Sarah