Reviews: Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai & To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

Children’s fiction review time! I want to draw attention to two wonderful children’s middle grade titles I’ve had the pleasure of recently reading: first up, courtesy of my friends at Raincoast Books is Remy Lai’s debut, Pie in the Sky; next, courtesy of the lovely folks at Penguin Random House Canada, is To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer. Let’s dig in!

Pie in the Sky, the debut from author-illustrator Remy Lai, has already launched to very strong and favourable reviews. An illustrated middle grade novel, Pie in the Sky is an often raw, very moving, funny, and deeply compelling story that follows a young boy named Jingwen, his little brother Yanghao and their mom, as they move to a new country- Australia- after the sudden death of their father. Leaving their grandparents and cake shop behind, Jingwen and Yanghao embark on a not-entirely-welcome adventure of a new home, new school, new language, new life without their father…almost new-everything. Only, it seems that while Yanghao and his mother appear to be more easily adapting to their alien life and lifestyle- including the use of their English language skills- Jingwen’s heavy feeling of estrangement doesn’t let up. Mourning his father and remembering their time spent together making cakes inspires Jingwen (and Yanghao) to make their fathers’ favourite cakes. The boys have to keep this top secret from their mom, making things pretty hairy and entertaining, while providing Jingwen a way to hold his father close…and maybe, possibly, fix his broken and guilty heart. It is remarkable how much ground Lai covers in her debut- not only in terms of subject matter but also: the use of graphic art in particular to delineate Jingwen’s experiences of alienation and uncertainty is so strong and affecting. From grief and guilt, newcomer experiences, to brothers, boogers and baking (lots and lots of delicious, mouthwateringly amazing baking), Lai‘s illustrated novel is a resonant, dynamic and wonderful read.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own. Final edition published in two-color. Title has been published and is currently available.

 

To Night Owl From Dogfish is a middle grade novel written in collaboration by acclaimed and bestselling authors Holly Goldberg Sloan (Counting by 7s, Short) and Meg Wolitzer (The Wife, The Female Persuasion).

So, this is awkward but I’m just going to say it. You dad + my dad met 3 months ago in Chicago at a “building expo”, which was at the downtown Marriott. I’m not going to explain how I know but THEY ARE NOW A COUPLE. – Bett Devlin

I think you are confused and have the wrong person. If my papa was in a relationship with your dad, there is a one hundred percent chance I would know about it. We’re very close, and it’s been just the two of us almost my whole life, so we’re best friends and he tells me everything. –  Avery A. Bloom

I have an affection for well-done comedic or gripping epistolary novels (Feeling Sorry for Celia, The Princess Diaries, P.S. I Miss You, etc.), so what a true delight it was to dive into To Night Owl From Dogfish. From start to finish, protagonists Bett Devlin and Avery Bloom had me riveted (and often in stitches) with their correspondences. When it is discovered that their respective single fathers have fallen into a swift and probably serious relationship, twelve year old girls Bett and Avery connect via email to discuss the very important matter at hand. As more details come to the surface, Bett (from Los Angeles) and Avery (from New York City) find themselves facing an entire summer spent together at a camp, while their dads, madly in love, go off on a trip together. In emails leading up to their inevitable stay at camp, Bett and Avery get to know some maybe cool things about each other- but vow to ignore each other…and not mention the possibility of their fathers getting married…and not mention the possibility of them becoming one big happy family. As you might have guessed, Avery and Bett stay in touch even as certain aspects of their lives appear to fall apart and change in very surprising, sometimes painful, sometimes amazingly cool ways. A story that begins with on a note of a new relationship and ends in a commemoration of not just one, but many new, marvelous relationships, To Night Owl From Dogfish celebrates love and all kinds of families. In their review, Kirkus describes To Night Owl From Dogfish as “The Parent Trap gets a modern makeover”, and I find that cinches the effervescent, quick-witted, and sometimes wonderfully madcap (and very, very funny) spirit of the novel. Readers who adore epistolary novels, or those who are looking for a novel that is delightful, emotional, sweet and surprising- and with a cast of marvelous charactersTo Night Owl From Dogfish is absolutely one to check out.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own. Title has been published and is currently available.

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