Q&A with The Pie Reports creator Hayley Lowe

Q&A with The Pie Reports creator Hayley Lowe

★ “Discusses illness and depression with gentleness that helps make the big feelings that can go with them less overwhelming. Touching and playful illustrations complement a story that handles themes of illness, depression, and aging with empathy and understanding.”

School Library Journal, starred review

In Hayley Lowe’s new picture book, The Pie Reports, a love of pie brings a young girl and her grandfather together through good times and bad.

What inspired you to write The Pie Reports?

The book is inspired by my dad and my daughter. I live in Vancouver with my family, but my parents are still in the UK. We try to maintain a close relationship with my young daughter and her grandparents through regular video chats. At the time of writing The Pie Reports my dad had just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. This was during the pandemic, so we couldn’t be with him. Soon after the diagnosis I noticed my dad retreat into himself. I was aware of the physical aspects of the disease but didn’t know much about the effects on mental health, the changes in brain chemistry and how it can trigger anxiety, low mood and lack of motivation.

Around a year later, we were able to travel to the UK which coincided with my dad’s first doctor’s appointment since his diagnosis. After a checkup the doctor advised him to focus on the small things that make him smile. One of my dad’s favorite things to do is make pie, and my daughter’s favorite thing is to eat them! So that’s what we did.

The rest of the trip was spent doing small, joyful things like making pie, flying kites, berry picking, making more pies, walking on the beach and soaking in time together. I noticed how intuitively my daughter knew when to give my dad space and when he needed a little push to ignite some joy.

The Pie Reports is my way of bringing this together for my daughter (and my dad). Hopefully the book will speak to other children who are dealing with a loved one suffering from health decline.

What did your process look like for writing and illustrating the book? Did you write and illustrate at the same time or did one come first?

This is probably the most clichéd answer ever, but the story came to me in the shower. My daughter was only three at the time, so I set her up with an activity as I frantically wrote out the story on a scrap of paper. Once I had a rough outline I started on the book dummy. The images were so clear to me. Then I went back to the text and worked on it with the help of many wonderful people, including my brother, my husband, my critique group, my agent and finally Vanessa from Orca who understood the heart of this story and turned it into something magical! The illustrations stayed close to the book dummy. I had a lovely art director, Rachel, who gave me space to create but also guided me gently when I needed it. It was truly a team effort.

What illustration techniques did you use for the book?

The book is rendered in pencil and graphite sticks, then colored digitally on Procreate.

What was your favorite section of the book to work on?

I really loved working on the little details in each spread, like Noor’s living room and her desk, and Granddad’s garage of treasures!

Have you baked some of the pies that Noor and Granddad bake together in the book? What’s your favorite pie—if you had to choose?

Don’t make me choose! Okay, if I had to, it would probably be strawberry rhubarb. I make that pie every summer with my daughter. My favorite savory pie is chicken pot pie, even though my dad’s specialty is steak and stilton.

What main takeaways do you hope for readers after they finish your book?

I hope young readers take away that even when we are separated from loved ones—family, friends, teachers—the absence does not need to diminish the love and connection. And that when we do connect, whether it be through a letter, phone call, video chat or in person, the small, seemingly inconsequential moments are the ones to treasure.

What’s next for you? Do you have any other books in the works?

I’m currently working on two more books (as an illustrator only). One is called Diaper Kid, written by Loretta Garbutt (Owlkids, Fall 2025). The story is about a little boy who does not want to transition from diapers to big-kid underwear. It is hilarious, and I’m having the best time with the art.

The second is a book called Yoga Adventures, written by Megan McDougall (Pownal Street Press, Fall 2024).

I also have my second author/illustrator book out on submission, so we’ll see what happens next. Hopefully the stars will align!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just a big thank you to Orca for being so supportive in this debut experience. I’ve really enjoyed being part of the pod!

Hayley Lowe is a Canadian illustrator and storyteller. She enjoys exploring a range of media but is particularly drawn to pencil, charcoal and gouache—and a sprinkle of digital magic. In a previous chapter of her life, Hayley worked as a contemporary dancer and as a children’s yoga instructor, using storytelling as a tool to teach and ignite imaginations. She lives with her family in Vancouver, British Columbia.