With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo was my birthday BOTM pick and it was SO, SO GOOD. As a former middle school ELA teacher in an urban district, the whole time I was envisioning so many of my former students and how much they would have connected with this book.
Emoni is high school senior in Philadelphia who is super passionate about two things: cooking & her daughter. She has worked so hard to make the best life for Babygirl, despite becoming a mom at 14. She also takes her family’s recipes and puts her own spins on them, often bringing her grandmother to tears with pride. Because it’s her senior year, Emoni has lots of decisions to make for her post high school life.
Her school begins a Culinary Arts class, and Emoni does well — until she realizes she has to follow the rules of the kitchen when it’s not her kitchen. She has some issues with her teacher, but are able to resolve them by the time the class needs to raise money for a trip to Spain.
This novel touched on so many issues my students would relate to — teenage pregnancy, parental loss, being raised by grandparents, poverty, race, sexuality, and more. It was also so refreshing to see a student aspiring to a vocational career, not just college.
This book had real characters, relatable content, and it was compulsively readable. The descriptions of everything Emoni was cooking didn’t hurt either! I found myself salivating often. 5/5 Stars from me for With the Fire on High — hoping schools will see the merits of this novel and consider using it for their ELA curriculums.