Fast-paced and fun-filled, a delicious read for middle graders, foodies or not.


From the Next Best Junior Chef series , Vol. 2

In Part 2 of this three-part series, only three contestants remain in the running for the “Next Best Junior Chef” competition. Who will be the next to go?

Caroline, Oliver, and Rae are back at the studio. (Caroline appears to be black, while Oliver and Rae seem to be white.) This round is different, though. The contestants are not nervous anymore, and everyone misses Tate, who was eliminated in the first round. However, things quickly ramp up, and no one has time to wallow: the competition schedule is packed from the get-go. The challenges include: cooking with only one of the elements—fire, water, or (hot) air; replicating one another’s favorite comfort foods; and creating a tasty three-course meal out of food-pantry items. As the contestants face each challenge, they take their mentor chefs’ advice to heart and show “real out of the box thinking,” “tap into [their] creative spirit,” and “innovate.” Over the course of the week, all three learn a lot in and out of the kitchen, conveyed easily in the breezy third-person narrative, which is punctuated by both spot illustrations and reality TV–like direct-address speeches from each contestant. Each character grows and gives 110 percent, but in the end, one of them must go, and readers will be as invested as the three kids in who that will be.

Fast-paced and fun-filled, a delicious read for middle graders, foodies or not. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-98028-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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Dizzyingly silly.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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