A fascinating behind-the-scenes peek at a reality cooking show; a must-read for all junior foodies.

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LIGHTS, CAMERA, COOK!

From the Next Best Junior Chef series , Vol. 1

The first in a three-part series, this follows four diverse preteen contestants who grapple with their hopes, fears, and dreams as they cook their ways through a reality TV contest.

On arrival day, the contestants meet one another—and their judges—for the very first time. Calm and confident, Oliver is also extremely competitive. Sweet Rae is inspired by her grandma and her multicultural neighbors, and she isn’t afraid to try new flavors. Cooking is in Caroline’s blood—her family owns a French bistro, and her mom is the chef. (She is also the only obviously nonwhite contestant.) Last but not least, Tate is the youngest at 9. He’s a bundle of energy and a little brash, but he has some mean knife skills. During the first round, the contestants take on several challenges, including small warm-ups such as a pantry race to more defining tasks such as creating a vegetable “dessert.” In the beginning, the contestants are cordial to one another and are on par skillwise. However, as elimination day approaches, the pressure mounts and rivalry sets in. Before long, deep-seated emotions are revealed both on and off camera. In the end, this is not just a story about cooking, but also about friendship, discovering one’s strengths, and valuing what matters most—and it’s not always winning. While difficult to track at times, the characters Harper has created are distinct and plausible. Plus she cleverly weaves her amusing storytelling with real cooking techniques for the aspiring young chef.

A fascinating behind-the-scenes peek at a reality cooking show; a must-read for all junior foodies. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-91260-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

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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Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE REVOLTING REVENGE OF THE RADIOACTIVE ROBO-BOXERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 10

Zipping back and forth in time atop outsized robo–bell bottoms, mad inventor Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) legs his way to center stage in this slightly less-labored continuation of episode 9.

The action commences after a rambling recap and a warning not to laugh or smile on pain of being forced to read Sarah Plain and Tall. Pilkey first sends his peevish protagonist back a short while to save the Earth (destroyed in the previous episode), then on to various prehistoric eras in pursuit of George, Harold and the Captain. It’s all pretty much an excuse for many butt jokes, dashes of off-color humor (“Tippy pressed the button on his Freezy-Beam 4000, causing it to rise from the depths of his Robo-Pants”), a lengthy wordless comic and two tussles in “Flip-o-rama.” Still, the chase kicks off an ice age, the extinction of the dinosaurs and the Big Bang (here the Big “Ka-Bloosh!”). It ends with a harrowing glimpse of what George and Harold would become if they decided to go straight. The author also chucks in a poopy-doo-doo song with musical notation (credited to Albert P. Einstein) and plenty of ink-and-wash cartoon illustrations to crank up the ongoing frenzy.

Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-17536-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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