The Next Best Junior Chef Episode 2: The Heat is On by Charise Mericle Harper, 167 pp, RL 4

Last summer I gobbled up Next Best Junior Chef Episode 1: Lights, Camera, Cook! by Charise Mericle Harper with illustrations by Aurélie Blard-Quintard. I am a huge consumer of more than a few cooking competition shows and, with Top Chef Season 15 coming to an end and Master Chef Junior Season 6 just kicking off, this is the perfect time to review the second book in the Next Best Junior Chef trilogy, Episode 2: The Heat is On.

With three cheftestants remaining to compete for their very own food truck, the heat really is on. Caroline, Rae and Oliver have a week filled with challenges, mini-challenges, field trips and lessons ahead of them, ending with the elimination challenge that will send one of them packing. As with the first book, Harper's story reveals that she, too, is a fan of cooking competitions. There is even a moment in The Heat is On where, when being interviewed by a judge about a dish, a cheftestant speaks about a mistake made as if it was intentional, something I often seen happen on the shows.

In The Heat is On, Harper continues to (gently) weave themes into the story that go beyond the fun of the competition. For their first field trip of the week, the three cheftestants head to a food pantry where they learn how it works and do some work sorting donations. In the side bars where the main characters talk directly to the reader, Rae shares that she has been to a food bank with her dad before, but she does not share this with the other kids. The kids also have to cook using the canned and boxed ingredients from the food pantry, coming up with delicious sounding dishes! There is also a competition at the end of the week that has the kids cooking for a quinceañera, using a family recipe for alfajores (cookies with dulce de leche filling, rolled in coconut) as well as second dessert with cotton candy as a theme.

Harper pulls off a bit of a surprise ending in The Heat is On, where, as with real competition shows, you see (some of) the contestants getting better with each challenge. And, as before, Harper also presents the cheftestants as kids, real kids who feel alone and scared sometimes and friendly and hopeful at others. There is another cooking technique and tip section at the end of the book as well as a sneak peek of the third and final book. I can't wait to see who drives off with the food truck at the end of the third and final book in this trilogy, The Winner Is. . .

Coming July 24, 2018!!!

Source: Review Copy

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