All Four Stars: Review

July 3, 2014 2014, 4 star books, contemporary, food in books, Kim, middle grade 67 ★★★★

All Four Stars: ReviewAll Four Stars by Tara Dairman
Published by Putnam Children's on July 10, 2014
Genres: contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonIndieboundBarnes & NobleGoodreads
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?

Warning! Do not read this book while hungry! You will just end up grumbly and resentful at all the delicious, delicious food inside! But perhaps not as sad as poor Gladys is after her parents ban her from the kitchen for one measly little accident with a blowtorch. Worst of all, they’re terrible cooks and only order super gross takeout from their town of East Dumpsford. Gladys is a food wizard and her parents are simply food Muggles. What’s a little foodie to do?

A surprising amount, actually! Goodness but this book is charming. The writing is unbelievably cute. It has that faint irreality and sense of wacky adventure that is common in MG and employed here to great effect. You might think this entire scenario to ludicrously unrealistic but trust in this author. Each turn of the story was delightful and had me chuckling along.

And there are so many adorable little moments that just speak to my own foodie soul.

“With every word she spoke, she inched closer to the cheese refrigerator, as if she were a magnet that belonged on its door.”

Okay, you see. This book speaks to me on a spiritual level. That is exactly how I feel about cheese refrigerators!

The descriptions of the food in this book! Hands. Down. Amazing. They leap off of the page (oh wouldn’t that have been a treat if they really did). From the buttery, sugary, peanutty goodness of the Apam Balik to the luscious tang of a blueberry-rhubarb pie to the carotty sweetness of the Gajar ka Halwa. Whether Gladys was cooking or whether she was just the happy recipient, each new food was a such a treat to discover and left me not only drooling but full of wanderlust! I kept bookmarking foods while reading so I could look them up and find out how to eat them later. I was so hoping I’d find recipes at the back but drat! No such luck! :p

The book is also wonderfully diverse and done in such a skillfully organic way. The people in Gladys’ life come from different walks of life and from around the globe and are all fully fleshed and realized characters. One of the things I really enjoyed about this book is that Dairman uses food as a way of traveling, of giving the reader a global culinary tour. Like I said it inspired total wanderlust. Even with the more domestic NYC setting I still felt that bit of magic and wonder.

And, of course, there are many lessons to be learned along the way during this adventure. Gladys is a smart and resourceful girl but she certainly has some help, including from one very supportive and caring teacher I was really quite fond of (I really have a soft spot for awesome teacher characters). The sweet and funny boy next door is a respite, a resource, and a source of wisdom for our gal as well. And maybe, just maybe, the reigning queen bee archenemy isn’t all that bad herself.

Foodies, this one is for you. People who love charming, funny writing that’s full of heart, this one is for you. People who are just fabulous and generally have great taste, this one is for you. Delectable, delicious, whimsical, and full of a magic all of its own. I haven’t read a novel quite this adorable in years.

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

divider vine cropped

So many of my favorite books this year have been Middle Grade. I can’t believe that before this year I hadn’t read any MG since I was kid. Please do feel free to tell me which MG’s I absolutely can’t miss out on. I’d love to hear your recs!

Don’t forget to check out other stops on the tour we’re hosting for All Four Stars as well! We have great bonus content to share, plus we’re giving away 8 copies of the book.


kim teal







67 Responses to “All Four Stars: Review”

  1. yoomi

    This sounds like my kind of book! Now i just have to wait for my library to get it. :)

    I just read “Absolutely Almost” and highly recommend it!

  2. maat

    This book looks impossibly cute and incredibly delightful!

  3. Jess@Fairday's Blog

    I love the way you described this book. It sounds enchanting. Gladys seems like a character that I will really enjoy. Even reading about the book is making me hungry. :) Thanks for sharing!

  4. Heather B

    Sounds like such a cute book that both my daughter and I could enjoy together. Having two children in the age range I find myself reading more MG books lately and really enjoying them! Where were all these great books when I was younger!

    • Kim

      Oh yes! That is so sweet and makes me just smile to think of you and your daughter enjoying this one together. I think that would be perfect. :) Ha and I find myself asking the same question. I mostly just read Sweet Valley Twins when I was MG age. What was I doing??
      Kim recently posted…Everything Leads to You: Tour Stop

  5. Anita Yancey

    This is such a cute book. I love that she started cooking at age 7, so did my mother and she cooked for a family of 11. I would enjoy reading this book that makes me hungry.

    • Kim

      It really is so cute and adorable. Whoa cooking for a family of 11 is a feat at any age but 7? I love how this real life story can combat any naysayers going on about this book being unrealistic. Kids can do so much more than many adults will give credit for.
      Kim recently posted…Everything Leads to You: Tour Stop

  6. Amanda Waldron

    A great review for a book that sounds absolutely fantastic! This review’s made me even more excited for the book than I was before!

  7. Trix

    Frankly, I think food stories *should* be a little bit magical! This sounds like a lot of fun…

  8. Beverly Archer

    The cover caught my eye and I thought I might want to read it, but after reading your review and a couple of others I know that not only should I read this book, I should probably buy it for the library.

  9. Romi

    Wonderful review!
    Whilst I do love the way MG books so often have that strange, wonderful magical element to them, something that I think is unique to that level (sadly), and this does sound pretty sweet, I don’t think it would be for me- still, the food just you mentioned does sound quite extraordinary, and I’m definitely going to look at those links, at the very least! It sounds like there’s a wonderful range of dishes mentioned in the book, which is tops, too!
    Romi recently posted…A Wrinkle in Time- The Graphic Novel by Madeleine L’Engle and Hope Larson…

    • Kim

      Just reading about the food is to die for. Actually making the recipes would almost be too much! But I think I can handle it. :P The author very helpfully informed me that there are indeed some recipes are on her site:
      Kim recently posted…Everything Leads to You: Tour Stop

  10. Michelle R

    Oh, this book sounds delightful! I need to order it for my daughter.

    • Kim

      Oh please do! It’s such an adorable, delicious little treat. I’m sure your daughter would love it!

  11. Carina Olsen

    I LOVE this review. <3 I'm so glad you enjoyed this book Kim. I did too :D Four star for me as well. It was just adorable, wasn't it? :D I found it to be awesome. Gladys was so cute. Sigh. Omg, yess. MG books are the best, hih :D Have you read The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand? <3 And The Year of Shadows by her too? Those books are ADORABLE. And creepy. And amazing. I love them so much. Sigh. :)
    Carina Olsen recently posted…In My Mailbox #140

    • Kim

      Hee oh thank you, Carina! This really was one adorable and sweet book! I haven’t read CAVENDISH HOME but it looks perfect for me! Adorable, creepy, AND amazing? Sign me up!

    • Kim

      Oh you really, really do need it. If you already think you’re going to love it you definitely will. It will fill your heart full of food goodness and love! What more could you need? We have a giveaway going on for it right now. Enter do! I’ve linked the giveaway below.
      Kim recently posted…Foodie Tour of NYC + All Four Stars giveaway

  12. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    The last time I felt hungry while reading a book was when I read Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler. I’ll definitely have to read this book on a full stomach so I don’t suffer as much as I did last time. Even if it’s a middle grade book it doesn’t turn me off at all. On the contrary I can’t wait to read it. Great review! :)
    Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms recently posted…Review: Locks: Rapunzel Unhinged by Sarah J. Pepper

    • Kim

      Oooooh. I must check that one out. Thank you for the rec! And yes, full stomach reading is a must for this book. The thing I have realized in my year of MG discovery is that I’ve been seriously underestimating how much I’d enjoy MG and how great these books really are. Probably in the same way most? a lot of? adults underestimate YA. Shame on me! But at least I know better know. :)

  13. Jon (@ScottReadsIt)

    This one looks adorable, I’m sold on this one! The fact that Nielson blurbed this one is amazing because she’s one of my favorite authors and this is the first time I’ve seen her blurb a book so this one must be special!! This book looks like it’s perfectly paired with a Crumbs cupcake.
    -Scott Reads It!
    Jon (@ScottReadsIt) recently posted…Like No Other by Una LaMarche

    • Kim

      Hoorah! You’re sold! The best news a reviewer can hear. :) Ha and I sure understand the siren call of a favorite author blurbing a book-especially when it’s so rarely done! Omg Crumbs. Yes. I sure could go for a Peanut Butter Cup right about now. They just closed all of the Philadelphia area Crumbs and now I’m sad all over again.

  14. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    I like the foodie twist, but I’m sold on “funny, charming writing that’s full of heart.” There can never be too much of that in my life! Not knowing what you read as a kid, I’m not sure what to recommend — speaking of funny and full of heart, Holes by Louis Sachar is one that comes to mind. I’m also a fan of E.L. Konigsburg as I mentioned on the read-along post. Whatever you choose to start with, there’s a lot of great MG fiction out there!
    Lory @ Emerald City Book Review recently posted…Beautiful Books: Picturing Jane Austen, Part Three

    • Kim

      I know, right? This is exactly the sort of book that’s great to reach for when you need a pick me up. And thank you for the recs! I will check them out. I’m especially interested in the Konigsburg since I never read her as a kid.
      Kim recently posted…Foodie Tour of NYC + All Four Stars giveaway

  15. Kristy Petree

    A YA foodie book, how cute! I need to add this to the to-read pile. :)

    • Kim

      Oh my goodness. Thank YOU, Tara, for the adorable wonderful book! I thought it was just wonderful. :D

      And what what what! I have just looked up WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE and it looks so, so delightful. A first daughter recreating Alice Roosevelt’s antics. Total perfection and so up my alley. Thank you, Tara!!

  16. Wendy Darling

    I’m so, so happy you loved this book as much as I did, Kim! I love everything about this review, but most of all your pointing out how it inspires wanderlust as well. So true! And so perfect, given that she wrote this book after traveling to like 30 countries.

    As for other middle grade books, you are SO going to regret asking, hee hee. Obviously I have a middle grade shelf on GoodReads, but I will have to thnik about which ones are perfect for you!

    • Kim

      Hee I’m so happy you put this on my radar! What an adorable, adorable book. I lovvvved how it satisfied both my food cravings and my wanderlust! You really can tell that the author is well traveled.

      No no no! I certainly shan’t regret it! Pile it on me! I know I really need to read LIESL AND PO. You love that one and it’s been on my radar for so long. *looks at tbr pile. becomes overwhelmed!!* Must add anyway.
      Kim recently posted…Foodie Tour of NYC + All Four Stars giveaway

  17. Vivien

    This sounds utterly fantastic!! When you first mentioned this book I got excited. I am a huge foodie, at least as much as you can be in the Midwest. And organic has been one of my latest projects. (It’s so HARD!) I’ve been meaning to read more MG lately. They can be such enjoyable books. One of my favorite things while reading is all of the food. Whether it’s made up or not, I adore it. And am always hungry for it!

  18. Ashley

    Oh! Oh! Oh! I was already excited for this book and now I’m really excited for this book. We tend to agree on books, particularly middle grade so my heart is ready for this book!
    Ashley recently posted…DNF Round Up: June

  19. Brenda

    Kim, I love your description of All Four Stars as a “global culinary tour”. I think that is exactly how I felt after reading the book. Lovely review, it speaks to why I enjoy reading MG.

    • Kim

      Hee. Oh thanks, Brenda! I just felt like I’d gotten done traveling the world when I’d finished. *wistful sigh* If there’s other MG out there that’s gonna make me as happy as this book I’ve got to get on it asap!

      • Brenda

        Hmm, I wish I knew your tastes more to recommend some MG. The one I really enjoyed recently was Hope is A Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera. Wendy would probably have some good suggestions. But I must admit the classics you all have suggested have been some of my favorites, can’t wait to read All of a Kind Family next.

    • Kim

      I know! The struggle is real, Mary! Food, why aren’t in you my hands and only on a page? :(

  20. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    You have me convinced! I need to read this book, and of course, I’ll be reading it accompanied by stacks of food so I won’t die of drooliness. I do love MG novels, my top 2 favourite series are MG series so I am certain I will fall in love with this.

    Lovely review! <33

    • Kim

      Excellent plan. You are a much wiser woman than I, Melanie! Though, part of the problem is that I just wanted the foods in the book to magically appear in my hands so I could eat them specifically!! Ha well anyway if you like MG then this one is a no brainer. You’re gonna love it. I can’t wait for you to read it!