Flash Reviews (9)

Pie by Sarah Weeks
Source: ALAN conference

Summary (From Goodreads): From the award-winning author of SO B. IT, a story about family, friendship, and…pie!

When Alice’s Aunt Polly passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe. Or does she? In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily surly cat Lardo . . . and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice.

Suddenly Alice is thrust into the center of a piestorm, with everyone in town trying to be the next pie-contest winner … including Alice’s mother and some of Alice’s friends. The whole community is going pie-crazy . . . and it’s up to Alice to discover the ingredients that really matter. Like family. And friendship. And enjoying what you do.

Flash Review: After listening to Sarah Weeks read from Pie and talk about her book, I couldn’t wait to start reading it.  The section she read made my mouth water, and it only got worse when I started reading the story.  She has done a fantastic job describing Aunt Polly’s pies; she even includes real pie recipes at the beginning of each chapter!  Along with the strong details and imagery, Weeks also uses a wonderful variety of figurative language like similes and metaphors.  She’s written Alice as a very likeable and sweet young character that you can’t help but admire.  Alice loves her Aunt Polly and misses her dearly, which makes her want to uncover the secrets behind Polly’s pie-crust recipe even more.  Tweens will enjoy the mystery and the humor.  I would have given this story 4 out of 5 stars, but the epilogue left me feeling deflated after reading a fun, light novel.  I don’t like the epilogue at all and really don’t understand why Weeks felt it necessary to include it.

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Source: NCTE conference

Summary (From Goodreads):

No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.

 For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.

But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.

This is the moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.

Flash Review: Inside Out & Back Again has been receiving quite a bit of award buzz and after reading it I completely understand why.  First of all, the verse is beautiful.  I’m a huge fan of verse, but I’m also very picky about it.  Some authors have a real knack for verse, while others could use some work.  Thanhha Lai has written an impressive historical verse novel.  I love that it takes place during the Vietnam War and provides readers with another perspective from during that war.  Today’s tweens will hopefully gain an interest in this side of the war and want to learn more about it.  The bigger focus of the story, though, is about how Hà adapts to her new life in the United States.  The language barrier is one of her biggest challenges, and at times heartbreaking to read.  Tweens will easily identify with her whether they’re of the same culture or not, because at this age almost all of them feel awkward, different, and out of place.  Inside Out & Back Again has everything a great novel should have: humor, strong characters, a wonderful message, hope, and more.


  1. I’m reading Pie aloud to my 6th graders right now and we’re going to have a Pie day when we’re done and they’re going to make and bring in pies from the book.

    I agree about the epilogue. I thought it was extremely unnecessary. I was also really upset that nothing was ever said about HOW Aunt Polly died (especially since I thought that would be part of the mystery)

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