Excerpt from With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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With the Fire on High

by Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo X
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
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  • First Published:
    May 2019, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2021, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

Part One
The Sour


EMONI'S

"When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon Verbena Tembleque"

RECIPE

Serves: Your heart when you are missing someone you love.


Ingredients:

Two cans of coconut milk
Handful of white sugar
Four shakes of cornstarch
Pinch of salt
Bunch of lemon verbena leaves
Bunch of vanilla beans
Cinnamon, enough to garnish

Directions:

1. In a saucepan, heat coconut milk until it comes to a boil. Muddle a bunch of lemon verbena leaves and vanilla beans and add to the heated coconut milk. Let steep.
2. After fifteen minutes, mix the infused coconut milk, salt, sugar, and cornstarch. Stir the mixture until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Let the combined ingredients come to a boil and keep stirring until the mixture begins getting pudding thick.
3. Pour into a big cereal bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for five hours.
4. After removing the mixture from the cereal bowl mold, sprinkle with cinnamon.
*Best eaten cold while daydreaming about palm trees and listening to an Héctor Lavoe classic.

Day One

Babygirl doesn't even cry when I suck my teeth and undo her braid for the fourth time. If anything, I'm the one on the verge of tears, since at this rate we're both going to be late.

"Babygirl, I'm sorry. I know it hurts. Mommy just doesn't want you looking a hot mess."

She seems unfazed by my apology, probably because thing (1) I'm not braiding tight enough to actually hurt her (which is why her hair is all loosey-lopsided!), and thing (2) Babygirl is watching Moana. And she loves Moana. So long as I let her watch Moana she'll let me play with her hair till kingdom come. Thank goodness Angelica lets me use her Netflix account. I lean a little closer to the edge of the sofa so I can snatch up the baby hairs at the front of her head. This is the hardest part, and I have to start the braid tight and small to get it right.

"Emoni, vete. It's time for you to head out. I'll fix her hair."

I don't even look over at 'Buela standing by the staircase that leads to the two bedrooms upstairs. "I got it, 'Buela. I'm almost done."

"You're going to be late for school."

"I know, but ..." I trail off and it turns out I don't have to say it, because in her way 'Buela always understands.

She walks over and picks up the comb from where I set it on the couch. "You wish you could be the one taking her."

I nod and bite my bottom lip. I worked so hard to get Babygirl into a good daycare, and despite a long wait list I kept calling and stopping by Mamá Clara's, the woman who runs the childcare, until she snuck us into an opening. Now that Babygirl is actually going I'm freaking out. In her entire two years on earth, Babygirl has never not been with family. I braid to the very tip of her hair. The design is simple, some straight backs with a pink hair tie at the end that matches Babygirl's outfit: little white collared shirt and pink pullover. She looks adorable. I wasn't able to buy her more than three new outfits for daycare, but I'm glad I splurged on this one.

I pull Babygirl's chair around so we are face-to-face, but I catch her trying to sneak a peek at Moana from the corner of her eye. Even though my chest is tight, I giggle. Babygirl might still be young, but she's also learning to be real slick.

"Babygirl, Mommy needs to go to school. You make sure you're nice to the other kids and that you pay attention to Mamá Clara so you learn a lot, okay?" Babygirl nods as if I just gave her the most serious Jada Pinkett Smith success speech. I hug her to my stomach, making sure not to nuzzle her too tight and fuzz up the braids I spent an hour doing. With a final kiss on her forehead, I take a deep breath and grab my book bag off the sofa, making sure to wipe down the plastic cover so 'Buela doesn't get annoyed with me.

Excerpted from With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. Copyright © 2019 by Elizabeth Acevedo. Excerpted by permission of HarperTeen. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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