Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review: Pie, by Sarah Weeks

Weeks, Sarah. Pie. 192 p. Scholastic. 2011. Hardcover $16.99. ISBN 9780545270113.

In this cozy mystery for middle grade readers, Alice’s beloved Aunt Polly, a famous but humble pie maker, has unexpectedly passed away. It seems Aunt Polly has left her secret pie crust recipe to her cat, Lardo, and the cat is left to Alice. But there’s a catnapper on the loose, and everyone in town is suddenly trying to bake award-winning pies... which means almost anyone could be a suspect. While reeling from the loss of her aunt, Alice sets out to solve the mystery.

Young readers will enjoy this book's whodunit mystery combined with themes of healing, friendship, and self-discovery. Language is straightforward and simple, and the 1950s setting provides a charming backdrop for a heartwarming story. The author skillfully captures the crushing loss of a loved one, subtly depicting those small moments in which the sadness overtakes everything else, yet the narrative is never bogged down by Alice's grief.

Characterization takes a bit of a backseat to plot, but the reader gets a good sense of who Alice and her friend, Charlie, are, as well as who Aunt Polly was. Alice’s mother is unrealistically unpleasant, but I suspect that she and other adult characters are purposely written as almost caricatures-- they are adults as seen through a child’s eyes, which is appropriate for the intended audience. A child doesn’t always see adults as well-rounded people with real concerns, after all. While an adult reader might view Alice's mother's change of heart in the end to be a little too convenient, it will likely be reassuring to a younger reader.

Now, perhaps my favorite part of this book is that it comes with TASTY PIE RECIPES. The beginning of each chapter is marked by a recipe from Aunt Polly’s notebook, and each one looks easy and delicious. I was only three chapters into this book when I broke down and HAD to make a pie.


I chose the buttermilk pie recipe, and am IN LOVE. It was so easy! My 2.5 year old helped mix the ingredients, proudly proclaiming, “I'm a baker!” and alternately asking with his typical curiosity, “Why makin’ pie, mama?” (Well, sweetie, so mama can EAT it, of course!)

It was the first time we baked together, and both of us were very pleased with the results. The pie was creamy with a perfectly mild sweetness and just a hint of lemony tartness. It was especially good fresh out of the oven- isn’t that true of everything?- but also delicious after being chilled in the fridge. I admit, I had to go back for more than one slice. (Ahem... okay, considerably more than one slice.)

Pie will be available in bookstores everywhere on October 1st. I received the ARC at the YA in Bloom event hosted by Bridge to Books earlier this year.

8 comments:

  1. Buttermilk pie? That sounds delish! Funnily enough, I went to an author event tonight at my local indie and I saw this book and almost bought it. Hmmmm.... guess I should learn to better follow my readerly instinct.

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  2. The buttermilk pie is sooooo gooooood. I mean, I can say that, right? I'm not taking credit, I just made it according to the recipe!

    This book, I think it would be a little young for your students... I expect it would appeal most to 4th and 5th graders. Maybe a 6th grader who wants a quick read, though! It's very cute.

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  3. It's a middle grade mystery? From Scholastic? I'm definitely picking it up at my school's upcoming book fair.

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  4. Oh how fun! I haven't come across that many MG mysteries since like Nancy Drew. Looks like this si a good one. Thanks for the spotlight!

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  5. Thanks for commenting, Moonlit Librarian and iwriteinbooks! I find middle grade readers so often ask for mysteries, and I don't read very many, so I end up feeling at a loss when I try to make recommendations. I was happy to find this one so I can recommend it. And... PIE RECIPIES!!

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  6. I want to make the lemon chiffon chess pie from this book! I'm so glad you made the buttermilk pie though because that was my second choice. It looks so good!

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  7. I received my ARC at BEA in NYC and I absolutely loved it - I agree completely with your review. I am using it for my grade 3-6 book club this coming week (mostly so we can eat PIE) but of course the bad part is there isn't much online about this book for discussion. I guess I'll have to actually do the work this time instead of borrowing :)

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