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THE HEAT IS ON by Charise Mericle Harper


From the Next Best Junior Chef series, volume 2

by Charise Mericle Harper ; illustrated by Aurélie Blard-Quintard

Pub Date: Feb. 13th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-544-98028-0
Publisher: HMH Books

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)