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

THE HEAT IS ON

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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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A sympathetic, compelling introduction to wolves from the perspective of one wolf and his memorable journey.

A WOLF CALLED WANDER

Separated from his pack, Swift, a young wolf, embarks on a perilous search for a new home.

Swift’s mother impresses on him early that his “pack belongs to the mountains and the mountains belong to the pack.” His father teaches him to hunt elk, avoid skunks and porcupines, revere the life that gives them life, and “carry on” when their pack is devastated in an attack by enemy wolves. Alone and grieving, Swift reluctantly leaves his mountain home. Crossing into unfamiliar territory, he’s injured and nearly dies, but the need to run, hunt, and live drives him on. Following a routine of “walk-trot-eat-rest,” Swift traverses prairies, canyons, and deserts, encountering men with rifles, hunger, thirst, highways, wild horses, a cougar, and a forest fire. Never imagining the “world could be so big or that I could be so alone in it,” Swift renames himself Wander as he reaches new mountains and finds a new home. Rife with details of the myriad scents, sounds, tastes, touches, and sights in Swift/Wander’s primal existence, the immediacy of his intimate, first-person, present-tense narration proves deeply moving, especially his longing for companionship. Realistic black-and-white illustrations trace key events in this unique survival story, and extensive backmatter fills in further factual information about wolves and their habitat.

A sympathetic, compelling introduction to wolves from the perspective of one wolf and his memorable journey. (additional resources, map) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-289593-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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