Saturday, June 24, 2017

The World's Greatest Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops

28107111Sager, Ryan K. The World's Greatest Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops
June 20th 2017 by Disney-Hyperion
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Zoey is such a fantastic cook that she has people buying food from her at her family home. Her parents, Valentine and Gershwin, are jazz musicians who give her a lot of space to do her own thing, and they are willing to cosign a $50,000 loan for her with Miss Lemon so she can open her own restaurant. She goes looking for locations, only to find one in Chinatown across from her idol, Chef Kung Pao. She meets the famous chef, but he tells her she can't open up across from her, and even threatens her. She also meets with a friend and mentor, Chef Cannoli, who tells her that opening a restaurant is more about bookkeeping than cooking. Undaunted by lack of support or appropriate venue, Kacey, along with her best friend, Dallin, find an abandoned cable car and pay her friend Knuckles to fix it up and drive it. Someone is out to sabotage her as she competes for the Golden Toque, awarded by Royston Basil Boarhead. Will her fascinating food juxtapositions be enough to surmount the odds facing her?
Strengths: This had great descriptions of San Francisco, and great descriptions of food. It's over the top, of course-- no one is going to give a $50,000 loan to a child, and that's probably barely enough to open a restaurant these days. This was a fun but unlikely romp.
Weaknesses: I'm debating this one. It was too much of a suspension of disbelief for me. I almost wanted there to be magic, so it would explain how Kacey was able to do all that she did without ever going to school or her parents caring at all.
What I really think: If you have readers who like The Candy Makers, Bliss or All Four Stars, I'd buy this. I'm not sure I'll buy this, but I DO sort of want to try the chocolate covered pork chop recipe!

Burnham, Molly B. Teddy Mars: Almost an Outlaw
March 21st 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

In this sequel to Teddy Mars: Almost a Record Breaker and Teddy Mars: Almost a Winner, big changes are coming to the Mars household. Ms. Mars has gotten a job as an animal control officer since Jake (the Destructor) will be heading to kindergarten. To help out with the transition over the summer, Great Aunt Ursula will be staying with the family. Teddy is not a fan of Ursula and her rules, but there is no denying that a family with seven children might need some help to adjust to this change. Teddy is concerned about having to take care of Jake, who is prone to doing things like living in the cat box or walking around in a shirt festooned with tin cans. It makes sense that his teacher assigns him to be a buddy with Jake the following year, but Teddy doesn't have to be happy about it. He does love his teacher, Ms. Raffeli, and is glad to be working on a mural project with her and his friends over the summer. Once Ursula moves in, things start to change. For one, she has a small dog named Peanut to whom Jake takes a shine. Jake also starts to weave potholders and to behave. Other siblings help out with housework and are persuaded by Ursula to give up their most annoying behaviors. It doesn't work as well with Teddy-- he and friends Lonnie and Viva are determined to break a world record even though Ursula would rather they mow the lawn or clean the basement. When Teddy's mother's job is at odds with the Grumpy Pigeon Man's pigeons, Teddy must try to look outside of himself for ways to help his friend and the pigeons for whom he cares.

Teddy is an exuberant characters with a lot of endearing qualities. He's not a bad kid, just a typical one who would rather be playing with his friends rather than doing chores. He is annoyed by his younger brother, but wants to try to help him. He's not pleased that his mother won't be at home, but is glad that she is proud of her new job, and really wants her to be happy. The other characters in the book are portrayed in a realistic fashion as well. It is  unusual to see a family with this many children in modern middle grade literature, but the realities of having a large family are sympathetically addressed.

Interspersed with Teddy's exploits are his attempts at breaking records as well as details about records that are already in the books. The Guinness Book of World Records is perennially popular with elementary and middle school students, and gives this series an additional selling point.

Like many humorous series with boys as the main character, Teddy Mars mixes the goofy with the sympathetic in a way that will appeal to readers who would be right at home at a cafeteria table with Byar's Bingo Brown, Danziger's Matthew Martin, Dowell's Phineas L. MacGuire, Harley's Charlie Bumpers or Weeks' Regular Guy.

Ms. Yingling

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