Book Review: Summer of a Thousand Pies

Summer of a Thousand Pies – Margaret Dilloway – Balzer+Bray – Published 16 April 2019




When twelve-year-old Cady Bennett is sent to live with the aunt she didn’t even know she had in the quaint mountain town of Julian, she doesn’t know what to expect. Cady isn’t used to stability, or even living inside, after growing up homeless in San Diego with her dad.

Now she’s staying in her mother’s old room, exploring the countryside filled with apple orchards and pie shops, making friends, and working in Aunt Shell’s own pie shop—and soon, Cady starts to feel like she belongs. Then she finds out that Aunt Shell’s pie shop is failing. Saving the business and protecting the first place she’s ever really felt safe will take everything she’s learned and the help of all her new friends. But are there some things even the perfect pie just can’t fix?

My thoughts

Summer of a Thousand Pies is a sweet middle-grade contemporary novel. A story about family and belonging, set amongst the backdrop of food, glorious food, Summer of a Thousand Pies touches on some deep and troubling themes such as homelessness, financial hardship, and the constant fear and struggle to belong faced by illegal immigrants. With diverse characters and a strong -if a little too headstrong at times- lead characters, Summer of a Thousand Pies is sure to delight young readers.

Cady knows what it is like to go without, or to be judged for living in her dad’s van rather than a house like everyone else. So when her dad is arrested and she is sent to live with her aunt, Cady knows she just has to survive a few months until her dad will come to get her. But Cady’s aunt Shell is nothing like she expected, and having the freedom to eat as much as she likes and explore Shell’s property is a new experience for Cady. But the best bit is Shell’s pie shop, where Cady can help out, learn to make pies and finally get to try some of the recipes she has collected over the years. But Shell’s pie shop is being threatened with overwhelming debt and Cady wants to do everything she can to rescue the new home and family she has come to love so much.

If you are looking for a book that features cooking and recipes, then Summer of a Thousand Pies is perfect. Cady is mad about baking. From growing up in an environment with limited food and poor cooking conditions to moving in with her aunt, Cady discovers a whole new world of techniques, ingredients and the celebration all things cooking. The Great British Baking show is featured a lot, and Cady experiments with recipes and mixing new ingredients. Each of the main recipes she tries are included in the back of the book, along with notes from Cady herself about the ingredients or tips for following the method.

But Summer of a Thousand Pies isn’t just about cooking and food. It is also about family. Cady slowly comes to understand and love her aunt Shell, warms to Shell’s effusive partner Suzanne and learns about friendship and getting along with others as she becomes friends with Jay, who, along with his family, also lives and works with Shell. From the pie shop’s customers to the town’s people, Cady’s summer is spent learning about others’ lives, feelings and how to live with people, rather than shutting them out.

There is so much to discuss, so many layers to this story. Whether it’s Jay, who fears being forced to leave the US due to his illegal immigrant status, homelessness, alternative families, financial hardship, or Cady’s growth to someone who considers others and controls her emotions, Summer of a Thousand Pies has something that will touch every reader.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Children’s fiction, Middle-grade fiction.

Genre: Contemporary.

Themes: Family, cooking, food, baking, homelessness, debt, financial hardship, illegal immigrants, LGBT, belonging, home, friendship, community.

Reading age guide: Ages 8 to 12.

Advisory: References to homelessness, neglect and alcohol abuse.

Published: 16 April 2019 by Balzer+Bray

Format: Hardcover, ebook. 384 pages.

ISBN: 9780062803467

Find it on Goodreads


  1. kozbisa

    Overall, I enjoyed this book, though I felt it was a little long for middle grades and it felt long, because the author was trying to jam so many issues into the story. She could have shed a few, which really didn’t advance the story, but it was still sweet and there was a lot of pie, and pie is good.

    • Madison's Library

      Excellent points, Sam (especially about the pie). I know we have some readers at our library that this book will be perfect for – great readers looking for complex stories and issues but still something with the right tone for their age – but it is long with lots of themes, so perhaps not suited for every middle-grade reader and not something we would choose as one of our middle-grade class novels. 🙂

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