November is a month of gratitude — and, for us, a month to celebrate Pie. We all have a favorite. Many of us have childhood memories of good times and pie. We all wait for the days when we can eat pie for breakfast. So we two thought this would be the perfect month to look at picture books about pie. We so consistently think of pie in November that we also reviewed pie books last year. But we have a couple of new ones this year. And who can think of pie too often?
We want to start with the classic—How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman (Dragonfly, 1994). We both love this book, love the idea of teaching geography through pie. If you want to make an apple pie and the market is closed what can you do? Well, you can go to Italy for wheat for your pie crust, France for an egg, Sri Lanka for cinnamon. Pick up a cow in England and on and on until you have collected the ingredients for the pie. The two-page spread showing the making of the pie is charming. And the last spread of sharing pie with friends — and the cow, the chicken, a dog and cat is enough to make you want to get out and make a pie. And of course the book includes a recipe for an apple pie.
Priceman did another book—How to Make Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. (Knopf, 2008) — which focuses not on ingredients, but tools involved in pie making — potholders, pie pan, rolling pin. It features the same sprightly illustration style and the same indefatigable character who will go to any lengths for pie.
Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie by Robbin Gourley (Clarion, 2000) is a “pie-shaped” story featuring one of the stars of the twentieth century food world — African American writer and chef, Edna Lewis. The book follows the child Edna throughout the seasons as she enjoys and comments on the foods that come with each. Spring brings wild strawberries and foraged greens. Each season also features a rhyme from Edna:
But I have never tasted meat,
nor cabbage, corn, or beans,
nor milk or tea that’s half as sweet
as that first mess of greens.
Summer is honey from the bees, cherries, berries and peaches. “Six perfect peaches make a perfect pie.” And then of course, tomatoes, corn, and beans. This is a book to get readers thinking about foods and seasons. In a time when we can buy tomatoes and peaches all year long, it’s good to remember the best fruits and vegetables are the ones we find in their seasons.
When apple season comes Edna’s poem reads:
Don’t ask me no questions,
an’ I won’t tell you no lies.
But bring me some apples,
an’ I’ll make you some pies.
We learn in an Author’s Note that in her writings Edna Lewis extolled the virtues of “preserving traditional methods of growing and preparing food and of bringing ingredients directly from the field to the table … For Edna, the goal was to coax the best flavor from each ingredient, and the reward was the taste and satisfaction of a delicious meal.”
Part of the satisfaction of a delicious meal is in the sharing. And that is doubly true for pie. If we should ever forget that and dream of eating a whole pie all by ourselves Stephanie Parsley Ledyard and Jason Chin have written a book to jolt us back to community—Pie is for Sharing (Roaring Brook, 2018). “Pie is for sharing,” this book begins. And we see kids and families gathering for a picnic. The best part is that the kids are all colors, all ethnicities, and they are playing and eating pie together. No one stands alone. No one is excluded. They also share books, balls, even trees. They laugh and swim and build sand castles. They are a flock of friends on a summer day together.
This celebration of pie and community ends with, “Many can share one light. /And a blanket?/A breeze?/The sky?/These are for sharing./Just like pie.”
Sharing pie is the problem and the solution in Gator Pie by Louise Mathews (illustrated by Jeni Bassett, published by Dodd, Mead 1979). We hope you can find this book. It is a charming math lesson told with pie. Alvin and Alice are alligator friends who happen to find a pie “on a table near the edge of the swamp. /It was a whole pie that had not been cut. /’ I wonder what kind it is,’ said Alice. /’Let’s eat it and find out!’ cried Alvin.” But before they can cut it, an alligator “with a nasty look in his eye” stomps up and demands some pie. They realize they will have to cut the pie into three pieces. Then comes another gator — four pieces. And four gators show up, “swaggering like gangsters.” We see a pie cut into eight pieces. Then more gators — a hundred in all. Very tiny pieces of pie. Alice cuts the pie into one hundred pieces and you’d think that would be the end, but Alvin has an idea…
Perhaps we can tell this is an older book because it’s Alvin who’s in charge here. Alice could have had that brainstorm and if we were writing this book now, she would. Still they are good friends, the math is fun, and so is ending up with a pie for two friends to share.
This month let’s be grateful for friends, for inclusive community in a world rattled with othering, and for the chance to make and eat pie.