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Book Reviews, Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Middle Grade Readers, Read-Aloud Suggestions

PIE by Sarah Weeks

I was intrigued by the title of this book:  PIE.  It is the story of Alice Anderson.  She is ten years old in 1955 living in the small town of Ipswitch, Pennsylvania.  Alice adores her Aunt Polly, who is famous for her pie-making ability and owns a pieshop (called PIE) to which people come from all over the country to eat her pies.

Polly has found joy in both the baking and the sharing of her pies.  Her sister (Alice’s mother) has tried to convince her to sell her recipes in order to become extremely wealthy.  Polly has steadfastly refused to do so; she doesn’t like charging money for what she believes is a precious gift she is meant to share with those around her.  She often accepts fresh ingredients from customers in lieu of cash for her pies.

Much of the story of Polly, herself, is told in flashback through Alice’s memories.  This is because when the story begins, Aunt Polly has died unexpectedly.  In her will she has left her secret piecrust recipe to her bad-tempered cat, Lardo.  And she has left her beloved cat Lardo to Alice.  While the town is confused by the idea of leaving a recipe to a cat, Alice’s mother is furious.  Alice is simply grief-stricken by the loss of the one person who she feels loved her unconditionally and accepted her for who she is.

Both Alice and her mother discover how to accept each other and recognize the joyful gifts within their own lives as they each attempt to incorporate Lardo the cat into their lives–in vastly different ways.  In addition to the loss of her Aunt Polly, Alice also stumbles upon a sinister plot involving her aunt’s recipes and someone else’s determination to get them.

Alice’s mother refuses to believe–or even listen to–Alice when she expresses her suspicions, attributing it to her daughter’s “overactive imagination.”  When Lardo disappears, Alice is sure he has been kidnapped.  Her friend Charlie is the only person  willing to help Alice solve the mystery and try to rescue Lardo.

The ending is predictable from the beginning and the relationship between Alice and her mother is too simply resolved but neither of these thing takes away from what is, at its core, a heart-warming story.  It has equal doses of mystery, friendship and the journey to discover and celebrate what is really important in life. (I am not a pie enthusiast, but it also has several pie recipes mixed in which might be worth a try!)

I truly enjoy a well-written story that allows me to chuckle and walk away from it feeling uplifted.  PIE  is such a book.  If you are looking for a gentle bedtime or classroom read, PIE is a great choice.

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