“Pie” and other works by Sarah Weeks

by | Feb 13, 2023

“Pie,” by Sarah Weeks, is a rare MG book where I could not for the life of me see where it was going! I don’t mean most stories are entirely predictable, but middle grade stories are fairly straightforward; that’s one big reason I love them! We (and by “we” I mean “I”) enjoy them because of intriguing characters or an entrancing setting, more than for complicated plots.

This story begins when Alice’s beloved Aunt Polly dies unexpectedly. Aunt Polly has an almost mystical ability to make absolutely delicious pies. She puts this talent to use by running Pie, a  shop  with pies, but one in which she doesn’t accept money for her wares, which confused me a little.

Every year she wins the coveted Blueberry award, not that she ever enters —such competitions and awards don’t interest her — but other people enter her pies for her.  When she dies, she takes her pie magic with her. In an effort to recreate her genius, everyone begins searching for the secret recipe for her delectable pie crust.

Everyone in the family, and the town, seems obsessed with the money they can make with Aunt Polly’s award-winning pies, even Alice’s mom. Alice’s mom fully expects to inherit her sister’s pie shop and the famous, secret recipe. Instead, the pie shop goes to the Reverend Flowers to use however he sees fit and the recipe goes to Lardo, Aunt Polly’s obnoxious, over-large, cantankerous cat.

Alice, the main character, inherits Lardo!!

You might expect that Alice also loves to bake pies and she might show the same talent her aunt did. Perhaps she’d continue the pie shop tradition? But no, Alice didn’t particularly care about pies, only about the time she spent with her lovely aunt.

So where is this story going? And how can a cat inherit a recipe, especially if it isn’t written down?

At first this story is a head scratcher (how can Polly keep running the shop without any income? Where is that recipe for Polly’s crust?) but then it becomes a whodunit as the pie shop is vandalized and Lardo goes missing. Did he wander off? Was he cat napped?

Alice and her friend, Charlie, join forces to solve the mystery. Along the way they make some surprising discoveries about a few of the people in their town, solidify their friendship and keep each other safe. They also make a few other discoveries about the legacy of Aunt Polly’s pies, which makes Alice feel better about her fellow town folk.

Eventually the mysteries are solved, though I won’t give them away here. We even get an epilogue, which is also filled with surprises. The reader (me) comes away entirely satisfied and entertained and goes off to look for more books by Sarah Weeks!

Which is exactly what I did!

After “Pie” I read “Guy Wire” and “Oggie Cooder.” I wasn’t sure at first about these titles because they seemed like they were going to be a little goofy for my taste, but Weeks does such a good job coming up with hilarious names and lovable, if wacky, characters that I devoured both stories.

“Guy Wire” is about a friendship and how it feels when your friend is in trouble. It takes an unusual approach by telling most of the story in flashback as Guy waits to hear news of his friend in real time.

I can’t remember the last time I read about a character who dressed in used clothes from his parents’ thrift store, combining plaids with stripes, and wasn’t in the least embarrassed about it, but that’s Oggie, in “Oggie Cooder.”

He’s a refreshing change from characters worrying about what others think of him. Oggie coins the term “charving,” a combination of chewing and carving, to describe his habit of biting his cheese slices into the shapes of states. It is ridiculous and improbable but because we like Oggie, we go along with this habit of his and it leads to some very funny places!

Neither “Guy Wire” nor “Oggie Cooder” are mysteries like “Pie” is, but they have equally fun and engaging characters and I would highly recommend them all.

Deb Aronson is an author whose non-fiction story about racehorse Rachel Alexandra (Alexandra the Great: The Story of the Record-Breaking Filly Who Ruled the Racetrack”) is a “girl-power story on four legs” Her next book,
“How to Raise a Rhino,” about rhino sanctuary founder Anna Merz, will be published this May.

This review originally appeared in the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette

Alexandra the Great book cover

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