I’m working on the Iowa Children’s Choice Award books right now and “Pie” is the first I’ve finished (and I confess I read it first because of the audiobook versions I was able to acquire, it was the shortest. Also, pie.). One of the libraries I work in is an elementary school library and we are busy promoting both the Goldfinch Award books (Iowa-based award for picture books) and the Iowa Children’s Choice Award books (Iowa-based award for youth fiction). My students are constantly checking these books out so that they can participate in some awesome (to be determined) surprises for top readers so I want to keep up with them.
“Pie” is about Alice Anderson, a young gal whose Aunt Polly is a fantastic pie baker, an award-winning pie baker, much to Alice’s mother’s dismay. Out of the blue, Aunt Polly dies leaving her cat, Lardo, to Polly and her secret pie crust recipe to Lardo. The whole town goes pie-crazy both with missing Polly’s delicious pies and wanting to win the pie contest now that the biggest competitor isn’t around to win. People are working to create their own award-winning recipes and some are working to steal Aunt Polly’s recipe. So much so that Alice discovers that Lardo has been catnapped and Aunt Polly’s pie shop has been ransacked. No one believes Alice’s theories but that doesn’t stop her from trying to solve the mystery all the while working through her grief.
I enjoyed the familial aspect of this story; it made it clear that not every family is perfect, in fact, there is a lot of imperfection in families. What I did not enjoy I was the ending. Weeks included an entirely unnecessary epilogue about Alice as an old woman. It added nothing to the story or character development and mostly served to depress the reader. Instead of a happy woman who experienced life, I took away that Alice was a woman stuck in the past who spent too much of her time remembering and not living.
Most of my cooking adventures that involve library-procured cookbooks and are also baking focused are pretty successful and this time was a pretty average hit. I decided to bake for my coworkers, as I am one to do, and because I’ve gone pretty sweet lately (pumpkin doughnuts and a cheesecake just to name a few), I thought I should go for a more mild sweetness. Therefore, Friday night found me alone in my apartment baking peanut butter and jelly muffins. I thought they were a little drier than I would like but again, a lot of my baking has been very sweet and exceptionally moist so my gauge might be a little off. I did enjoy the opportunity to use grape jelly I had made last summer from the best Concord grapes I have ever tasted.
2 c flour
1T baking powder
2 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1 1/4 c evaporated milk
2/3 c chunky peanut butter
2 T melted butter or oil
1/4 c grape jelly
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare muffin tin. Then mix dry ingredients in separate bowl.
2. Whisk milk, peanut butter (I melted it), egg, and oil in a small bowl before adding wet ingredients to dry.
3. Spoon into muffin tin and bake 20-25 minutes. Once slightly cool, use a sharp knife to cut a small opening in tops of muffins and spoon in a small amount of jelly.