★ ★ ★ ★ ★
All Four Stars by Tara Dairman | July 2014 | Putnam Juvenile (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin) | Hardcover $16.99
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.
I devoured this book during my lunch hours over the past week or so. It was pure torture.
Here’s the thing: you MUST have something delicious to snack on and/or drink while you’re reading this book. And it has to be something good… munching on a low-cal cardboard granola bar or picking your way through a small paper bag of wilted lukewarm fries is not going to cut it. Trust me, I tried. I wanted to weep.
OK, so we’ve established that this book is cute and drool-inducing, but I think it has other merits. Gladys is a smart, rather geeky and endearingly precocious young girl, and I think kids (especially introverted kids with unusual hobbies) will find her relatable even if they aren’t really into cooking or exploring obscure little hole-in-the-wall eateries. She loves her parents and doesn’t want to disappoint them, but she just can’t give up doing what she loves… even after she accidentally sets the kitchen on fire in the first chapter.
Though Gladys commits most of her energy to being a foodie behind her parents’ backs, they are never really painted as outright villains, which I liked. Her struggle isn’t against evil adults who never want her to have any fun; it’s against rules her parents put in place for her protection because they care about her (ill-advised and silly as those rules may be). This is the sort of loving struggle that all kids have with their grown-ups at some point.
Gladys’s newfound friends, a doting aunt, and her “weird” but encouraging teacher, Ms. Quincy, make up a great supporting cast for our gastronome heroine. Actually, the development of her relationships with these other characters was really a strong point of this book. Even though Gladys is painted as something of a misunderstood loner at the start of the story, it’s other people — kids her own age and supportive adults — who end up enabling her adventures.
There’s plenty of middle grade-level comedy going on, too, which I think balances well with all the insanely amazing food descriptions. Plus, the reviews that Gladys writes in her little journal about everything she eats are adorably funny.
An e-ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via The Midnight Garden website for participants in the book’s blog tour (including LSoaL)! Head over the book’s official blog tour page to read some other reviews, go on a “foodie tour” of New York City with the author, and enter for a chance to win a copy!
If you haven’t already, you should definitely check out some of the other reviews and interviews and stuff happening over at The Midnight Garden, a blog for/about grown-ups who read YA and MG books. It’s a pretty cool place to hang out for a while.
Publication information: Dairman, Tara. All Four Stars. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014. EPUB file.
Source: ARC provided by Putnam.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.