Published by Putnam Juvenile on Tara Dairman
Genres: contemporary, middle grade
Source: Book Tour
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Meet Gladys Gatsby: New York’s toughest restaurant critic. (Just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.)
Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world.
But in order to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City—all while keeping her identity a secret! Easy as pie, right?
Bring your appetites! The Midnight Garden is kicking off another wonderful tour!
When I read the description for this story, I felt a bit of excitement as I drooled over some of the buzz words. Cooking? Restaurant review? Pie? Crème brûlée??! I was sold. When the story was pitched to me on a blog tour I was ready to take a bite out of this sweet-sounding novel. Fortunately for me, I was not let down, and I was pleasantly surprised at the amount care given to this nice little novel.
To start off, I wanted to hit my favorite point of the book: Weight never came up in the story. I am over the whole food=fat in literature. No. Just no. Yes, overeating can lead to obesity, but sometimes, it doesn’t. So many factors goes into body shape – calories, DNA, height, mobility. I was so HAPPY that looks never came into play. In fact, the story mostly revolved around inner development. I liked how Gladys slowly came out of her shell, and helped others around her blossom and come to the forefront. Gladys and her “arch enemy” find that they have something in common. Food brings people together, and sharing hobbies can build a bridge over adversary.
The description of the food is WONDERFUL. I love making desserts at home, so the material for the book already struck a good cord with me. The sensory detailed writing luckily left nothing to the imagination. It is a rarity to stumble on a book that uses all five senses in the writing. I like that the author describes HOW to fix the dishes and the food. Baking is an art, and the author displays her knowledge of the craft well.
Setting-wise, I fell in love with the setting. A chunk of the story takes place in the Big Apple. This is going to come across as cheesy, but I have a fondness of the city now. (Like I said, cheesy!)
It isn’t uncommon to find that a wacky plot cooked up in middle grade and young adult novels seem to veer towards fantasy that reality in a contemporary novel. In All Four Stars, the plot is actually very believable, and I can actually swallow the premise that lead up to Gladys’ stint with a food critic position.
The only sour points of the story seem to be the general attitude of the characters. Gladys was a very likeable, smart character, but sometimes her actions bordered on selfish. She caused some issues with her father during one part of the story, and she warms up to her “worst enemy”, only to turn around and unfairly used her. She never seemed to own up to the fact that her actions were completely self-serving, which caused me to feel a bit frustrated with the overall moral.
Don’t mistake this snack of a book as just a mere morsel! Come prepared with an appetite for food and fun! All Four Stars was a blend of sweet and savory. The story catered to a younger audience without watering down the substance for the sake of an easy sell. This book speaks to the heart of a chef, and an imagination of a child.
About the Author
novel, All Four Stars, will be published on July 10, 2014 by
Putnam/Penguin. Tara grew up in New York and earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College; she currently lives in Colorado, where she teaches writing to students aged 6-13.