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ALL FOUR STARS by Tara Dairman — Book Recommendation

This is the first of my series of posts about books in which the main character finds a way to shine in his or her own unique way. I hope you’ll enjoy the series and this book!

A TV show I particularly like to watch is the Kids Baking Championship – even though I feel so bad for the kid who has to go home at the end of each show. I’m impressed with each one of them, and I wish everyone could win. However, it’s a fun show and it’s amazing to see how well those kids can bake.

The book I’m sharing today is a middle grade novel about a girl who loves cooking – any kind of cooking. She also loves writing. Mixing the two will either create something delectable or something that could mean she’ll never be allowed to do either again.

A bonus bit of information for my writer friends – this book was the winner of the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for the SouthWest region.

Title: All Four Stars

Author: Tara Dairman

Publisher: New York: Puffin, 2014

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction

Audience Age: 9 to 12 years

Themes/Topics: family dynamics, cooking, writing, friendship, secrets, truth

Opening Sentences: (Note: The chapter heading is A GREAT, BIG, FAT AMOUNT OF TROUBLE) Gladys Gatsby stood at the counter with the spout of her father’s heavy blowtorch poised over the ceramic cup. Her finger hovered over the trigger button that was supposed to turn her plain little custards into crunchy, tasty treats.

Synopsis: Gladys Gatsby is an eleven year old who has been perfecting her gourmet cooking since she was seven. This is not easy with parents who think of food as something to be picked up at the nearest greasy fast food joint. Unfortunately, the crème brulée problem hinted at in the first two lines of the book results in her being banned from the kitchen.

She has to find some way to feed her need to cook, but creating gourmet concoctions for her nemesis at school would not have been the way she would have chosen. Gladys begins sneaking time to cook when her parents are still at work, hoping fervently that they will not find out she is breaking the cooking ban daily in her quest to avoid being tormented .

Gladys also loves to write, but her attempt to win a school writing competition hosted by the New York Standard newspaper is thwarted as well when her entry goes astray – and ends up on the desk of the editor in charge of the restaurant reviews. She has the opportunity of a lifetime, to eat at one of the best new restaurants in New York City, if only she can find a way to sneak into the city without her parents learning what she is doing.

This could either turn out beautifully, or like the crème brulées in the first chapter, it could all go up in smoke.

For Further Enrichment: You can find the author’s website at www.taradairman.com. And I was very glad to learn that this is part of a series! There are three books so far. You’ll find information about all the books, and recipes, at Tara Dairman’s website.

There are tasty extras at the Kids Baking Championship website.

If you want to learn about a real-life Kid Chef who began her cooking life at an early age and is now furthering her education as a chef, check out the website of Kid Chef Eliana, who was the 2016 Chopped Teen Grand Champion, and has had other amazing experiences in the kitchen.

You can find cooking instruction videos for kids on YouTube, like this one with kids learning to make pumpkin muffins (appropriate for the fall season, I think.)

There are often kids’ cooking classes offered locally, too, and even cooking camps.

Availability: Tara Dairman’s books should be available through your local independent bookstore, or from an indie bookstore online. Check by searching your zip code at IndieBound.

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