Delightfully quirky characters populate the 1950s-era small town of Ipswitch, Pa., beginning with 10-year-old Alice’s aunt Polly, pie baker extraordinaire, who confounds her family and neighbors by giving away—rather than selling—her shop’s mouthwatering pies. Astonishingly, her nonprofit business flourishes, lifting the town’s economy and fame, as Polly repeatedly wins the coveted Blueberry Award. Polly’s death leads to widespread grieving, as well as anxiety about Ipswitch’s future. Humor and mystery ensue when the town learns that Polly inexplicably bequeathed her secret piecrust recipe to her grouchy cat, Lardo, and Lardo to Alice. In response, adults indulge in behavior ranging from bizarre to criminal: the entire town begins baking pies, someone catnaps Lardo and ransacks Polly’s store, and Alice’s unpleasant and money-grubbing mother becomes even more so, feeling jilted by being left out of Polly’s will. Alice and her friend Charlie become amateur sleuths and prevail over adult immaturity, while Polly’s generous spirit resonates from beyond the grave. With pie recipes introducing each chapter, Weeks’s (As Simple as It Seems) novel stimulates both sweet tooths and sweet nostalgia. Ages 9–12. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
Praise for So B. It:
* “This is lovely writing--real, touching, and pared cleanly down to the essentials.” Booklist, starred review
* “Refreshing, offbeat characters
readers will be genuinely touched and surprised.” VOYA, starred review
“A remarkable novel. [Heidi's] cross-country journey is brave and daring and yields surprising results.” - The New York Times Book Review
“The search for home and history is one that readers will find compelling.” Kirkus Reviews
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
Alice's Aunt Polly makes perfect pies. The crusts are flaky, flavorful, and full of Lardo shortening. The fillings are simply scrumptious. People come from far and wide to get Polly's pies; but she will not sell them. She barters them for more ingredients. This system does not make Polly rich; but it makes her famous, especially when she wins thirteen consecutive Blueberry Awards for baking excellence. Aunt Polly is also Alice's beloved confidant and, when Polly dies, Alice is bereft. Not only has she lost her aunt and her favorite peach pie, but she has inherited Polly's nasty cat, Lardo (named for the shortening and his plentiful physique). Who mayor may notbe connected to Polly's secret crust recipe and someone is trying to catnap Lardo to get the recipe. The book is set in the 1950s, and Polly and her friend, Charlie Erdman, set out like their TV idols, Sky King and his niece, Penny, to solve the mystery of the elusive catnapper. That piece of fifties trivia will be lost on all but grandparent readers, but astute adults will see similarities in this book and the quirky TV show Pushing Up Daisies, also set in a peculiar pie shop. The "read alike" for this book would be Roald Dahl's Matilda, since Alice has the spunk of Dahl's beloved heroine and there is more than a passing resemblance between Alice's body-building principal, Miss Gurke, and Dahl's evil Miss Trunchbull. This book is generously laced with fun, early adolescent friendship, and a lesson about how everyone has their own gifts to share with the world. The author brings the story full circle with Alice grown and the godmother to a new Polly, who has a talent for baking. Readers will sigh with satisfaction. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—In the 1950s, the small town of Ipswitch, PA, is famous due to the proprietor of Pie, who gives her wares away rather than selling them. Polly Portman, 13-time winner of the coveted Blueberry Medal, knows everyone's favorites and keeps meticulous notes for each filling, but not the crust. That recipe is in her head. She also lavishes love and attention on her niece, Alice, an only child who can never please her mother. So when Polly Portman dies unexpectedly, the town is bereft. Many selfishly wonder where they are going to get their pie fix, and some wonder what will happen to the tourist industry that was built around Polly's fame. Alice cries for two days and "felt like a slice of Swiss cheese inside, all limp and full of holes." At the reading of her aunt's will, she learns that Polly left her piecrust recipe to her fat, grumpy cat, Lardo, and that she left Lardo to Alice. It isn't long before the animal is catnapped, the bakery is trashed, and Blueberry Medal fever hits Ipswitch. Someone wants Aunt Polly's piecrust recipe badly. With the aid of Charlie, a newfound friend, Alice sets out to get to the bottom of the mystery. Weeks deftly leavens moments of hilarity with the process of grieving in this sweet coming-of-age story in which Alice learns from Aunt Polly to follow her heart and to open it as well. Readers will close the book with a satisfied sigh and may seek out an adult to help them bake a pie. Recipes included, but not for the crust.—Brenda Kahn, Tenakill Middle School, Closter, NJ
What do you get when you take some scrumptious pie recipes, stir in a mix-up of a mystery involving an overweight cat and a legacy, then add a sly satirical nod to the Newbery Medal? This irresistible confection.
In 1955, 10-year-old Alice's beloved Aunt Polly, the peerless "Pie Queen of Ipswitch," who has always given away the extraordinary products of her oven simply because it makes her happy, dies. She bequeaths her incomparable piecrust recipe to Lardo, her cat—or does she?—and leaves Lardo to Alice. Thus the stage is set for a rich, layered and funny tale about friendship, family relationships and doing what's right. The characters are wonderfully drawn. While doing her best to carry on Aunt Polly's legacy, trying to figure out how to wrest the secret from the cat, dealing with a nefarious woman poking around town and learning about the renowned "Blueberry Medal," which everyone in town is trying to win, Alice draws closer to her mom, a resolution Aunt Polly would have cherished. Alice and her family eventually discover the solution to the mystery in a plot twist that is both comical and plausible. An epilogue, set in 1995, is deeply poignant and gratifying. In addition to the beautifully wrought story, readers will savor and want to attempt the 14 recipes, each of which precedes a chapter.
Warm, delicious and filling. (recipes, pie credits)(Historical fiction. 9-12)