Nixie Ness Cooking Star – written by Claudia Mills and illustrated by Grace Zong

        Nixie Ness Cooking Star (After-School Superstars #1) – written by Claudia Mills and illustrated by Grace Zong, Margaret Ferguson Books – Holiday House, 9780823440931, 2019

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Realistic fiction

Rating:   (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

What did you like about the book? In the first book of the After-School Superstars, Nixie Ness is devastated when she learns that her mother has taken a job outside the home, which means Nixie is no longer able to stay at home after school with her mom and her best friend Grace. As if that development isn’t enough reason to despair, Nixie also discovers that Grace will not be attending their elementary school’s aftercare program with her due to financial constraints.  Grace will now be spending afternoons at home with Elyse, another student in their third-grade classroom. Nixie quickly sees that Grace and Elyse have developed a strong bond, and she is determined to find a way to rekindle her friendship with Grace. Even though cooking camp is fun, and filled with a variety of children, it’s not the same as the time Nixie spent with Grace. The afterschool crew is comprised of a fun and diverse group of characters: a brainiac named Nolan, very precise Vera, and class clown Boogie Bass. Nixie tries desperately to win back her friend, and her attempts backfire. Pushed to the edge, she says something very mean to Grace, and immediately regrets her actions. By story’s end, all of the girls have made amends, and it’s clear that they will have a genuine friendship going forward. The next book in the series features Vera Vance, “comic star”.  This early chapter book makes its mark in a variety of ways. The use of cellphones to snap pictures, discussions of working “outside the home”, and shared parental duties lend a contemporary touch. The author also is mindful of cultural and racial diversity by authentically presenting characters in blackline pencil illustrations who appear to be Indian-American as well as persons of color without stereotyping. And, although the storyline is filled with typical missteps and friendship angst, the plot line is believable and realistic without being preachy or contrived. As an added bonus, the cooking segments may spur young readers to become more involved in food preparation. In fact, the author included a recipe for Morning Glory muffins to try at home.

Anything you did not like about the book. No, although I found the food preparation portions of the text interesting and informative, some young readers may find the detailed descriptions a bit too long for their attention spans.

 To whom would you recommend this book? Fans of Ivy and Bean

Who should buy this book? Public libraries. and elementary libraries and classrooms.

Where would you shelve it? Fiction or early chapters

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

 Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Linda Broderick, Lincoln Street Elementary School, Northborough, MA

Date of review: June 26, 2019

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