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Lights, Camera, Cook! (Next Best Junior Chef)

Review

Lights, Camera, Cook! (Next Best Junior Chef)

Written by Charise Mericle Harper with illustrations by Aurélie Blard-Quintard

LIGHTS, CAMERA, COOK! is the first in a new series by author Charise Harper. The novel follows Rae, Caroline, Tate and Oliver as they compete to become the Next Best Junior Chef in a fictional “Master Chef Junior”-esque television show.

I think Harper really captured the cooking competition atmosphere. Next Best Junior Chef felt realistic. She really walked the reader through all the little details and honestly, it felt like I was watching a behind-the-scenes feature. And as a lifelong fan of cooking shows and competitions, I was given a lot to think about and I doubt I'll look at shows like “Master Chef” the same way again. I think it would have been really cool if the book included and Author Note where the author explained whether or not she made up the behind the scenes stuff or based it on real events.

"This book is a must-read for any young home cook and it is also a great first novel for kids transitioning out of chapter books."

Each of the four kids represents a different stereotype. Oliver, for instance, is the calculating, cocky and snobbish kid, while Tate is the hyper, can't-sit-still, really energetic one. A lot of the time stereotyped characters such as these are undesirable and a weakness but in this case I felt it was a strength. I thought it was fun to see traits of contestants I've seen over the years through the characters. I feel that the stereotypes made the characters and fictionalized TV show feel more real and lifelike.

I wasn't a fan of the artwork in the book at first, but it didn't take long for the illustrations to feel natural and I think the frequency of the drawings will appeal to younger middle grade readers. However, while the pictures did blend with the story, there were, unfortunately, some inconsistencies in the sketches.   

Included at the back of the book are some cooking techniques all about knife work. These techniques covers the three basic cutting styles to the anatomy of the knife, which I think was a nice thing to include and I found\ the information helpful and interesting.

Overall, I enjoyed LIGHTS, CAMERA, COOK! I think Charise Harper nailed it for the age group she was targeting. This book is a must-read for any young home cook and it is also a great first novel for kids transitioning out of chapter books. Older readers who enjoy food-oriented stories might want to give this one a shot, but be aware that it is intended for a younger middle grade audience.    

Reviewed by Rachel A., Teen Board Member on August 22, 2017

Lights, Camera, Cook! (Next Best Junior Chef)
Written by Charise Mericle Harper with illustrations by Aurélie Blard-Quintard

  • Publication Date: July 18, 2017
  • Genres: Careers, Children's 7-10, Cooking, Fiction
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0544912608
  • ISBN-13: 9780544912601