Review + Teachers’ Notes: ‘Pie in the Sky’
A sophisticated, funny and emotional illustrated middle-grade debut about immigrating to Australia, being upstaged by an annoying little brother, baking cakes and overcoming loss.
Title: ‘Pie in the Sky’
Author: Remy Lai
Publisher: Walker Books Australia
Age Range: middle primary, upper primary
Themes: immigration, grief and loss, family, siblings, brothers, friendship, school, classroom, baking, cakes, bakery.
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Jingwen, his mother and his little brother Yanghao have recently moved to Australia. Jingwen loves cake, which makes sense given his grandparents run a cake shop back in his home country and his dad was always making cakes before his death. In fact, Jingwen’s dad had plans to open his own fancy cake shop called Pie in the Sky where together they would all bake things like chocolate raspberry tortes, Neapolitan mousse cake and apple mille-feuille. Mourning his father and in a new country, Jingwen feels like an alien among his classmates as he struggles to learn English, which sounds more like Martian words in his mind. Jingwen decides to bake his way through his troubles, with the help of his annoying brother. ‘Pie in the Sky’ is heavily illustrated throughout but not so much as to call it a graphic novel – I’m going with graphic novel/narrative hybrid! The illustrations add a sophisticated level of visual literacy and a good dose of humour and, despite the seemingly heavy storyline, ‘Pie in the Sky’ is an utterly engaging, page-turning, satisfying read.
Cakes make everything better, and like an excellent cake, ‘Pie in the Sky’ is a delicate balance of satisfyingly sweet with sophisticated depth.
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Download our Teachers’ Notes prepared by teacher Melissa Kroeger for Children’s Books Daily in context with the Australian Curriculum as a PDF document here.
• Who was your favourite character and why?
• What did you like best about this book?
• What did you like least about this book?
• What would you say is the biggest message from this book?
• Why do you think Jingwen felt he needed to carry out his journey of making cakes? How was it going
to make everything ‘better’?
• Yanghao is an ‘annoying’ sibling to Jingwen. What do you think Yanghao thinks and feels about his
big brother Jingwen?
• How would the story’s journey have been if Papa was alive when they began their new life in
• Often we meet people who are new to our country and don’t speak our language. How has ‘Pie in the
Sky’ changed your view of these people/ helped you to understand how to communicate or treat
• Jingwen lied to his mother. Was it the right thing to do? How could Jingwen have dealt with the
situation differently? Discuss what might have been different scenarios that could have aided Jingwen
to still make the cakes but without being deceitful?
• Lying is a theme throughout the book. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages to lying.
• Jingwen and Yanghao have such different experiences to each other at school. Discuss your
experience of school with others and compare your experiences.
• Discuss how Remy Lai uses her illustrations to extend on the story. Do the illustrations show
emotions of the characters? Set the scene? Help you to understand the text more? Find some
examples and discuss with your group or class.
• This book is not a true graphic novel, nor is it a true novel. It is a ‘hybrid’. Why do you think Remy Lai
decided to make this book a hybrid? How has it helped to mould the book?