Monday, January 12, 2015

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: All Four Stars

I’m hooked on Master Chef, Master Chef Junior and The Taste, so to anyone who knows me, it’s not going to be a big surprise that I really loved this food-related middle grade book! I waited for a long time for it to become available at my public library, and finally got to read the e-book. But I think I might buy a copy of my own.

Here’s the Amazon description:

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?

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014

My Take:

This story was a lot of fun! I heard many good things about this book before I read it, and it definitely lived up to my expectations. I really liked the concept of an 11-year-old girl secretly becoming a restaurant critic. Gladys’ parents were interesting characters, seemingly very different from her (they were hopeless at cooking) and although they did spend a lot of time at work, there was a strong sense of family. I also liked Gladys’ attempts to solve her problem of how to actually get to the restaurant she was supposed to review. This book has interesting settings (food shop, Broadway show) and humor with all the difficulties that Gladys encountered with her friends.

As a writer, I’d study the plot in this story, as well as the pacing. The story moves along quickly, so there were no slow or dull moments. Each scene is important to the story.

Opening Line:

“Gladys Gatsby stood at the counter with the spout of her father’s heavy blowtorch poised over the ceramic cup.”


“A warm, happy feeling course through Gladys, like the kind you get from a sip of hot cider on the first cold day of fall.”

“That night after dinner (a piece of fish that had been blackened beyond recognition on the outside but was still frozen on the inside), Gladys set to work.”

“It took only one bite for Gladys to conclude that this crumble was the best thing she’d ever cooked.”

Other Info:

Tara Dairman lives in Colorado, where writes plays and middle grade novels. She enjoys traveling and spent two years traveling around the world.

A sequel to All Four Stars, called The Stars of Summer, is coming in May of 2015.  I can hardly wait!

All Four Stars is a finalist for the Cybils Awards, in the category Middle Grade Fiction.

Tara offers a free 20-minute author Q&A session on Skype or Google Hangout with any class, book club, or library group that has read All Four Stars.

For more, visit Tara Dairman’s website.

Looking for more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday books? Visit Shannon Messenger’s blog for a list of bloggers reviewing great books today! Shannon is the founder of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and the author of the middle grade series, Keeper of the Lost Cities.


  1. I've heard great things about this too. Glad you enjoyed it enough to maybe buy it.

  2. Food always does it for me, too. Haven't read this one, but have it on my TBR list. Great review!

  3. I was lucky enough to win a copy of this from Rosi Hollinbeck in October and I read it right away. I absolutely adored it. The parents are a little goofy (imagine preferring microwaved dinners!) but it's a fun read. Just haven't had a chance to blog about it. Your review is spot-on.

  4. I just got this one from the library as well. I'm a big fan of all the cooking shows too. I can't wait to read this--especially after your review!

  5. I just loved the way things got turned on their heads in this adorable book. This one was one of my favorites of 2014.


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