HOT, SOUR, SALTY, SWEET

Ana Shen looks forward to an evening with her crush, Jamie Tabata. When their eighth-grade graduation dance is canceled, Ana, prompted by her friend Chelsea, invites Jamie to dinner at her house instead. In a tale unfolding over one afternoon and evening, Smith serves up a funny, entertaining gumbo of cultural collisions and discoveries. Ana’s Chinese-American dad and African-American mom are a loving couple, but her grandparents exemplify culture clash. Each set tries to outbid the other for Ana’s affections, using expensive graduation gifts as currency. The guests arrive, adding to the mayhem: Japanese-American Jamie and his parents; European-American Chelsea and hers; the snobbish blonde Mr. Tabata wants his son to date and her mother. Food makes a perfect context for exploring cultural biases and what it takes to dispel them. An anecdote Ana’s African-American grandfather tells about a meal shared with a Chinese soldier in the Korean War is key. “You are what you eat” may be true; “You are what you cook” makes a far more interesting story. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-385-73417-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2008

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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The timeline overlaps the events of the companion novel, but fans of the first won’t feel déjà vu. There’s more of a sense...

TOTALLY JOE

One quarter of the “Gang of Five” from The Misfits (2001) tells his own story of coming out and overcoming bullies and prejudice through alphabetical entries in his “alphabiography.”

Joe Bunch aka JoDan aka Scorpio (among other names) works his way from October to March to fulfill his teacher Mr. Daly’s assignment to write about his life from A to Z, including “life lessons” at the end of each entry. Though things do go Joe’s way, the story is nothing but realistic. Howe has created a character that lives and breathes with all of the inconsistencies, fears and longings of your normal average seventh-grade homosexual. Joe still thinks “exchanging saliva” is excruciatingly gross, but he knows he wants to date boys. He thinks Colin is cute and fun to be with, but Joe just can’t “tone down” on command. His family is not surprised when he finally lets them in on his secret with the gentle assistance of his artistic Aunt Pam and his (sometimes overly) helpful best friend Addie.

The timeline overlaps the events of the companion novel, but fans of the first won’t feel déjà vu. There’s more of a sense of spending extra time with a favorite friend. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-689-83957-X

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Ginee Seo/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2005

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