All Four Stars
Genre: Contemporary, Middle-Grade
Publication date: July 10th 2014
by Putnam Juvenile
“A scrumptious gem of a story!”—Jennifer A. Nielsen, New York Timesbestselling author of The False Prince
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?
-A copy was provided by Putnam Juvenile for review-
After reading serious book after serious book and then topping it off with a gore-filled horrorfest novel, I didn’t think there could be a better cleanse for my palate than a sweet MG read. I was wrong, there was something better, a sweet MG read that is full of the most luscious, tasty food descriptions that I have ever come across! All Four Stars by Tara Dairman is a wonderful middle grade read that makes you fall for it’s voracious MC and also leaves your mouth watering like no book I have read before.
This book along with my last read are leaving me thinking that I am warming up to third person perspective. Of course I know that in these two instances it’s just cases of the POV being done right. More often times than not when I read something in the 3rd I feel a disconnect to the story, instead of being sucked in I am left feeling like a constant outsider who is merely observing the story. That’s not the case here, I came to love Gladys, I came to care about what happened to her and I felt like I was sitting at the table with her while she ate some delectable goods. The writing here is strong, from the character development to the world building, I can’t say that any part of it was lacking.
The real gem here is the plot. What I love so very much about middle grade books is that I am much more willing, as a reader, to allow the writer to take a bit of creative license and get a little wacky with the plot. I am more willing to accept something that is a little far-fetched all in the name of good entertainment. In the novel we meet Gladys who is an 11 year old girl that’s obsessed with cooking. When she’s reading, she’s reading cookbooks and when she is home alone she is cooking up a storm. Unfortunately her parents don’t feel the pull to the habit as she does, they’d rather get fried chicken or tasteless underdone pizza so because of this and the fact that she is only 11 she has to keep her cooking life a secret. After a mishap with some creme brûlée she is banned from the kitchen and told to do “normal” kid things. Things get really interesting when an assignment is given at school to write about what the children want to do with their lives when they get older. After humming and hawing Gladys ends up writing about being a food critic for a local newspaper. The essay gets sent to the newspaper and given straight to the head of the dining section and before we know it Gladys has her first assignment as a freelance writer for The New York Standard.
What follows is Gladys trying to find a way to get into the city and complete her review of the newly opened Classy Cakes dessert parlour. I loved watching all of the ideas unfold as she brainstormed with her neighbour Sandy. I also loved Sandy, he was a wonderful secondary character that had me laughing more often than not with his word mix ups (this kid is totally my husband!) But as I mentioned before what was the best to me about this novel was all of the food. From an outing to great restaurants with her aunt, to an Indian feast at her friend Parm’s house and even just shopping trips to a delectable grocery store, this book had me hungry! Of course, as it is with food, not all of it was worthy of a full four stars. The cooking that her parents attempt to do led to some not so stellar reviews from Gladys that had me laughing so hard and reminiscing about some of the worst meals I have had myself. You can tell that Dairman has been around the world and is someone who knows her food & flavours.
Full to the brim with comedy and deliciousness, All Four Stars is a gem for any reader. I can see my daughter enjoying reading every page of this novel and I can also see my older sister enjoying it just as much. I will be quick to jump on anything Tara Dairman writes in the future and it is now a dream of mine to be invited to her house for dinner (and maybe dessert too…)