Summer of a Thousand Pies

384p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Apr. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062803467.
Gr 4–6—Since her mother's death, Cady's father has been adrift, struggling to maintain a job and provide a home and basic parental care. When long-standing sobriety issues land him in jail, 12-year-old Cady is once again placed in foster care, this time with her Aunt Shell, her mother's sister whom she hardly knows. Life in remote, yet close-knit Julian, CA, is quite different from living homeless on the San Diego streets. At Aunt Shell's pie shop, Cady discovers a sense of belonging she never knew, making friends with the employees and regular customers, while also learning some hard truths about her parents. But Aunt Shell's business struggles have jeopardized the future of the pie shop, and Cady's scrappiness, ingenuity, and drive to be a great pie-maker gets everyone in her newfound home involved to save the establishment. Eight recipes with notes from Cady are included as back matter. Memorable characters and strong writing make this more than just a book about pie. Homelessness, substance abuse, undocumented immigrants, and same-sex relationships are weaved into the plot, along with themes of belonging, acceptance, and finding one's place in the world. Though some social issues would have benefited from deeper development and others are not wholly rectified, they are present and, to the author's credit, vital aspects of the narrative.
VERDICT Realistic fiction with substance. This would be a fine purchase for mid to large collections.

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