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Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet Mass Market Paperback – September 8, 2009

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About the Author

Sherri L. Smith is the author of Lucy the Giant and Sparrow. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Here's how she wants it to go: After the graduation ceremony, when all the speeches are done, Jamie Tabata will walk off the stage with her, take her by the hand and say, "Ana Shen, would you please go to the dance with me tonight?"

Ana, of course, will say yes. She might even blush and squeeze his hand a little. And then she will go home, ignore her family for the next four hours and spend the fifth hour getting dressed (maybe the blue skirt and the pale blue tank top with the ruffles) and taming her hair. When Jamie shows up, they'll walk to the school together, even though it's a long walk. The gym will be lit up like the Fourth of July, with a mirror ball casting starlight and shadows so that even the bleachers look otherworldly. And their first dance will be a slow dance (but not too slow) and he will pull her close and say, "I've liked you since the first day I saw you."

Ana will say, "Me too." And the dance will end, but they will still both be standing there, his arms around her, and he will lean in and give her the most perfect--

"Now, our salutatorian, Ana Shen!" Principal Rubens bellows into the microphone. The mike squeals and Ana jumps out of her reverie.

Great, Ana. Daydreaming right in the middle of your own graduation. She's on her feet before she knows it. Jamie Tabata is making his way back to his seat. Valedictorian, first in their class. He smiles shyly at Ana. She's too embarrassed to smile back. She blushes. Ana's had a big old crush on Jamie since the second grade, and today is the last day of junior high school. She may never see him again after this. And "this" is a perfect chance to make a fool out of herself by flubbing her graduation speech.

She grins a bit too widely at Principal Rubens, an avocado-shaped man in a brown suit with a fringe of hair and beard to match. He holds his hand out to offer her the podium. Ana takes a deep breath and tries to focus.

The sun is out. It is a beautiful June day in Los Angeles. The soft whir of the freeway sounds like the earth breathing, like bees humming in a meadow. The sky is blue, sprinkled with airplanes like distant birds. The stage is set up at one end of the school's sports field, row upon row of plastic folding chairs before her, filled with purple graduation gowns and parents in business suits and Sunday dresses. Her family is somewhere in the crowd--parents, little brother, both sets of grandparents. Come on, Ana, she tells herself. Don't barf. Just do your speech.

She steps up to the mike and clears her throat.

"Good afternoon, soon-to-be graduates of Edison Junior High. My name is Ana Shen."

The crowd rumbles. Ana hesitates, to let the applause die down. It does, but the rumbling does not.
She begins again. "When we first started at Edison . . ." The rumbling is louder, louder than the freeway behind them. Louder than the crowd. She looks uncertainly at Principal Rubens.
"Is that an earthquake?" someone asks.

There is a sudden hush. And then, behind her, the roof of the gymnasium explodes. Or, rather, a geyser of water blows through the roof, shooting into the air like Old Faithful, three stories high. It arcs over the stage with a rainbow dazzle of water and sprays the back half of the sports field like a giant sprinkler. Ana ducks behind the podium as the water shoots overhead. People sitting in the back rows scream. The stream of water loses pressure and falls, like heavy rain, onto the graduates and their families. The purple dye in the gowns starts to run, and the graduates caught in the deluge do a little dance, yanking off their gowns and running past the edge of the falling water.
Oh no, thinks Ana. My hair.

It's not the kind of hair that stands up well to water. Ana clutches her graduation cap to her head. Principal Rubens jumps to his feet, pushing Ana to the side.

"Remain calm, everyone! Remain calm! We appear to have broken a pipe somewhere! Remain calm!"
No one remains calm, however. Teachers go scampering off the stage, and a few chairs are overturned as families plunge through the forming mud, looking for shelter and drier ground. "Head for the far end of the field!" Principal Rubens shouts into the microphone. It squeals again, and the sound works as an alarm. The teachers suddenly remember themselves and organize Ana's classmates into groups that can actually follow orders.

So much for how she wanted it to go. Ana climbs off the wet stage alone, her mortarboard dripping with purple water. Oddly, the rest of her is relatively dry. She doesn't even want to think about what her hair looks like. In the chaos, she spots Chelsea. They grab hands, find a relatively dry spot beneath a jacaranda tree and wait for an official announcement.

"Here." Chelsea offers Ana a dry graduation program.

"Thanks." Ana takes off her cap and shakes her hair out. She dries her face with the program, dissolving the proud letters declaring edison junior high commencement ceremonies.

Not the way Ana planned it at all.

"We should find our families," she says at last.

"Ah, they'll be fine," Chelsea replies. "Besides, look at this mess. They could be anywhere."
It's true. Ana surveys the devastation. It looks like Noah's flood has hit the sports field. Water is running toward the softball diamond, pooling at home plate and third. More of the students are pulling off their gowns. A few of them are laughing. Mostly the boys. The girls look mortified.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Mass Market Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440239885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440239888
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.5 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #684,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sherri L. Smith was born in Chicago, Illinois and spent most of her childhood reading books. She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she has worked in movies, animation, comic books and construction. Sherri's first book, Lucy the Giant, was an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults in 2003. The Dutch translation, Lucy XXL (Gottmer, 2005), was awarded an Honorable Mention at the 2005 De Gouden Zoen, or Golden Kiss, Awards for Children's Literature in the Netherlands. Sherri's novel, Sparrow, was chosen as a National Council for the Social Studies/Children's Book Council Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and is also a 2009 Louisiana Young Readers Choice Award Nominee. Upon the release of Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet in February 2008, Sherri was featured as a spotlight author for The Brown Bookshelf's Black History Month celebration, 28 Days Later. Flygirl, an historical YA novel set during World War II, is her fourth novel. She is currently working on her fifth book.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Little Willow on February 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Sherri L. Smith
takes place over the course of one day,
starting at a girl's eighth grade graduation. Ana's
entire family and both sets of grandparents come to
her graduation ceremony, which is literally
disastrous: a water pipe breaks, dousing the graduates
just as Ana was beginning her salutatorian speech.
After graduation, at the nudging of her best friend,
she manages to invite her crush Jamie over for dinner.

It sounds simple enough, but it's not. Her
grandparents don't really get along. Ana's mom is
African-American and her dad is Chinese-American. Ana,
her parents, and her bouncy little brother are happy
and well, but the grands always experience a cultural
clash when they are in the same room. The grandmothers
frequently try to one-up each other with gifts and
stories. Now they'll try to do the same as they race
to prepare the perfect dishes for Ana's impromptu
graduation dinner.

As if it weren't trouble enough having all of the
grandparents in the kitchen cooking up completely
different foods, some unexpected guests arrive,
further complicating things. When Ana steps out of the
kitchen and looks around the dinner table, she's bound
to be surprised. Ultimately, her family's different
cultures and tastes blend together and compliment each
other, and the ending, like the meal, is satisfying
for Ana.

A quick G-rated read for middle school students that
encourages the blending and appreciation of different
cultures. Maybe a little predictable, but fairly

I also recommend Smith's previous releases,
Sparrow and Lucy the Giant, to teens.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Ana Shen's biracial family - a Chinese-American father and an Afro-American mother - brings two grandparents in town at the same time - which results in a host of new problems and a confusing blend of cultures for Ana. How best can she honor both her very different grandparents - at a meal during which each expects something different? Add the usual conflicts over friendships and coming of age and you have a sweet mix of dilemmas and encounters.
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Format: Hardcover
HOT,SOUR,SALTY, SWEET by Sherri L. Smith is, perhaps, the cutest book I've ever read. It's the charming YA novel about Ana Shen, a smart and sassy young girl of African-American/Chinese-American heritage, upon her graduation from junior-high school.

The book displays fourteen-year old Ana as she copes with her many issues--her younger brother, her parents, her nemesis at school. Her junior-high graduation is a near `disaster'. Though she has no boyfriend, Ana does have a huge crush on a boy in her class. Thankfully, she has a loyal best friend, Chelsea, to help her navigate life.

The book has a contemporary feel as it depicts, in Ana's teacher's words, a "`marvelously biracial, multicultural' family," as they prepare for and participate in a celebration dinner. Among the likable characters are Ana's parents, grandparents, and best friend--featuring dialogue that sounds modern and authentic. For instance, when Ana says:

"We've had exactly three family meals with both sides together. . . We eat out together. We have to eat out together, or else there'll be a fight or a disaster, or the end of the world. . . . This is no longer a dinner, it's a competition. That means you've made my life hell for the next'--she glances at her watch--four hours. Four hours! Holy crap, I've gotta go!"

HOT, SOUR, SALTY, SWEET is a YA novel that will resonate with both older and YA readers, alike. This is a book I'd have loved to have read as a young adult. I found myself reminiscing on my own junior-high/high school graduations, and that time in my life. I think HOT, SOUR, SALTY, SWEET will evoke pleasant memories for other readers as well. (This is a book both mothers and their daughters will empathize with and enjoy reading.
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By cara on July 31, 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Good book for my daughter . Shipped right out .
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