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All Four Stars

Review

All Four Stars

By the age of 11, Gladys Gatsby has developed an adventurous appetite and a talent for cooking. Her parents have never understood her culinary passion, and when Gladys has a fiery mishap involving a crème brûlée, they ban the aspiring chef from the kitchen. With her cooking privileges revoked, Gladys is forced to eat the fast food her parents bring home each night. Even worse than the greasy takeout dinners are the meals her mom and dad concoct in the microwave. Salvation appears in the form of a mix-up at a prestigious newspaper. Soon, Gladys is hired as a freelance food critic for the New York Standard.

The assignment --- to review a restaurant opening in New York City --- is perfect for Gladys, who has devoted her brief life to critiquing food. Gladys must find a way to get to the city and write the review on deadline, without revealing her identity. Meanwhile, her parents are pushing her to try more non-cooking related activities. Gladys tackles both assignments, making new friends who help pull off her scheme. Even with a plan in place, Gladys needs to change tactics and improvise as she goes --- no easy order for a cook who’s used to following a recipe.

Gladys Gatsby has the spunk and stealth of Harriet M. Welsch

Though it hits a few plot snags, Tara Dairman’s middle-grade debut is fresh and inventive while capturing the spirit of children’s classics. Scribbling reviews in her notebook, Gladys Gatsby has the spunk and stealth of Harriet M. Welsch. Food writing can often seem like an arena for snobs, but Gladys’ reviews are seasoned with playful metaphors and a satisfying dash of humor. She not only writes about gourmet dishes, she can also whip them up. Her ability to bake her way into the hardest of hearts brings to mind the confectionary magic of Lisa Graff’s A TANGLE OF KNOTS. But Gladys’ sophisticated palate is all her own. She stands apart from the picky eaters in her age group, who shrink from the foreign. Young foodies will delight in the references to international desserts, drawn from Dairman’s globetrotting experience.

ALL FOUR STARS highlights the relationship between cooking and community. Home alone while her mom and dad are at work, Gladys takes to the kitchen for extra nourishment. When her favorite activity is forbidden, she looks to teachers, neighbors and friends for the encouragement she craves. Gladys’ commitment to following her passion --- and sharing it with others --- resonates as much with adults as with young readers.

Reviewed by Emma Kantor on July 9, 2014

All Four Stars
(All Four Stars #1)
by Tara Dairman

  • Publication Date: July 10, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
  • ISBN-10: 0399162526
  • ISBN-13: 9780399162527