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All Four Stars

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Gladys Gatsby has dreamed of becoming a restaurant critic for New York's biggest newspaper--she just didn’t expect to be assigned her first review at age 11. Now, if she wants to meet her deadline and hang on to her dream job, she’ll have to defy her fast-food-loving parents, cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy, and battle Manhattan’s meanest maitre d’.

289 pages, Kindle Edition

First published July 10, 2014

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About the author

Tara Dairman

7 books205 followers
Tara Dairman is the author of the middle-grade novels THE GIRL FROM EARTH'S END (3.14.23, Candlewick), and ALL FOUR STARS, THE STARS OF SUMMER, STARS SO SWEET, and THE GREAT HIBERNATION (all published by Penguin Random House). Tara's debut picture book, DESERT GIRL, MONSOON BOY, illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan, was named to many best-of-the-year lists. Tara is also a recovering full-time RVer (2.5 years all over North America) and a decade before that, a round-the-world honeymooner (2 years, 74 countries!).

Tara holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Blog: taradairman.com/blog

Facebook: facebook.com/TaraDairmanAuthor

Twitter: twitter.com/#!/TaraDairman

Instagram: instagram.com/allfourstars

Author photo credit: Tina Wood Photography

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5 stars
1,288 (40%)
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3 stars
417 (13%)
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34 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 586 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
October 5, 2019

my word…

now, i don't read much middle grade. i feel creaky enough when i am reading YA, squinting through my bifocals at all the energetic protagonists. but wendy darling asked if i would join in on the blog tour for this book, and after i learned what a "blog" was, i got my old bones right on board. when a goodreads celebrity asks for your participation in something, you do not refuse. and considering how much i loved Rooftoppers last year, i figured it was time to see what else was out there in the world of MG.

and this book is such a delicious treat, to which i gladly give all four stars.

it's about gladys gatsby, an eleven-year-old foodie who is burdened with fast food-loving, terrible-cooking parents who do not know about her secret life as a mini-chef; that she has been creating gourmet meals for herself since she was seven years old. and they probably wouldn't ever have found out, except for an unfortunate meeting between a crème brûlée and the wrong kind of blowtorch, which resulted in NO MORE KITCHEN CURTAINS!

her punishment? no more cooking. no more reading about cooking. no more going to the one exotic-ingredients grocery store in her little corner of long island. she is doomed to night after night of takeout, and the occasional home-cooked meal by parents who are slaves to their microwave, and assert that meatloaf doesn't have "a set amount of time" to cook, and "We'll just nuke it until it looks done!"

oh, and she is also encouraged to play outside, make friends, be less solitary.

none of these are appealing to gladys at all.

however, when a school assignment about her future plans to become a famous food critic is misinterpreted as a job application at a major newspaper after a series of surprisingly plausible situations, she finds herself gainfully employed in her dream job.

and all she has to do is find a way to get into manhattan, go to her assigned restaurant, and submit a review that sounds like something an adult professional with years of training would have written. without her parents finding out.

easy peasy.

what follows is a series of winsome adventures, delicious descriptions of food, and some triumphs in friend-making and parent-training, as gladys eventually gets to prove that, yes, meat does have a set cooking time, and food can be more than just fuel.

it's terrifically cute. and for those of you who are pooh-poohing the credibility of an eleven-year-old making these restaurant quality meals in her home kitchen - i watched masterchef junior last year, and those kids do NOT mess around.

and not a blowtorch mishap among 'em…

so, THANK YOU wendy darling, for thinking of me, because this was totally up my alley and now i feel youthful and vigorous. and hungry. very, very hungry.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Julie G .
884 reviews2,754 followers
February 18, 2022
My 13-year-old daughter informed me yesterday that I'm okay at interior decorating, but I could be better.

(Another flaw of mine to add to the ever-growing list).

It turns out, she would prefer it if our furnishings were all Asian, and she suggested that I should start going to higher end consignment stores regularly to find the proper pieces. Oh, and things match too much around here, it's better to be more eclectic.

Ugh. Affluenza mixed with adolescence is such an annoying combination.

I could only laugh to myself, thinking that my daughter was sounding like Gladys Gatsby in this book that I had just finished with my other daughter, my 11-year-old.

It's a similar situation; Gladys is a preteen who has decided that she's a chef, but she's stuck with two annoying parents who both work demanding jobs and who both survive on a diet of bad take-out and food prepared in the microwave.

On top of that, Gladys is an only child with no friends and a lot of time on her hands. Next thing we know, she has set the kitchen curtains on fire while trying to burn the tops of her crème brûlée.

What follows from the parents: no more cooking shows or cookbooks until you find some actual friends, oh, and pay for the curtains you burned!

Gladys is precocious, intolerant of her peers and impatient of the limitations of her small town (Dumpsville, USA).

Yet, she and her subversive tactics are pretty priceless!

Apparently the author, Tara Dairman, spent 10 years getting this story “just right,” and I agree that she got there.

Naturally I'm giving All Four Stars four stars and I highly recommend it to tweens, foodies and parents who cook their dinner in the microwave (or who aren't clever enough at interior design).
Profile Image for Faye, la Patata.
492 reviews2,115 followers
July 11, 2014
All Four Stars is definitely an endearing read that will connect to the chef (and eater!) in you, as it follows the story of Gladys Gatsby, a young sixth grader, follow her dreams in the most unconventional way. She has loved food at a very tender age, and has since then experimented with recipes behind her parents' backs. It has gone so, so well, until she caught the kitchen's curtains on fire when she was attempting to make a Crème Brûlée, a tasty French treat that assure you is as delicious as it sounds. She got banned from the kitchen, from looking up cookbooks, and pretty much everything that has anything to do with food and cooking, but what's she to do when she (unintentionally) finds herself hired to review a dessert shop for the New York Standard? Looks like her dream isn't yet ready to give up on her, either...

One word to sum up this book? Freaking. Adorable.

And it's not because of the food, either! The main character, Gladys, was such a sweetiepie. I loved how behind that timid and shy persona was a young girl oozing with passion. I loved how the mere sight of food (and real food, not just the fast-food half-cooked stuff that's served in East Dumpsford!) put her in euphoria. Her eagerness was so contagious that her descriptions of the Indian cuisine and the desserts in Classy Cakes pretty much sent my stomach to a grumbling and growling frenzy. But most of all, it was so admirable to see someone so young pursue cooking for the mere fact it made her happy and fulfilled. I don't remember being that way when I was eleven years old. I was awkward and all over the place, and I didn't know what I really wanted to do in life, and seeing Gladys like this made me want to be young again and be as full of fire.

At the beginning, she was quite hesitant to share her enthusiasm for food, and how could she not? For one, her parents were terrible cooks and fast-food-lovers who deemed cooking as an "unapproved" eleven-year-old activity. Her only friend in school, Parm, was someone who only ate cold cereal and plain spaghetti and had no palate for anything else. Her Aunt Lydia, who introduced her to cooking in the first place, lived so far away in Paris. It was therefore such a momentous moment to see her finally stand her ground and make her dreams come true on her own terms. She didn't wait for it to happen to her - she made it happen herself. She found ways. She exerted effort. She tried. And every step of the way you'll be cheering her on, because she braved the waves when it felt like the whole world was against her.

And the food descriptions! My goodness! They were such delectable delights, as they surely made my imagination run wild. It's no secret that this blogger here loves food. If I have to choose, I'd rather spend my money on going out to restaurants than on shopping sprees. Who could possibly resist dumplings, foie gras, or some pasta Alfredo? When Gladys recalled her foodtrip at her Indian friend's house, I was reminded of the Sultanate of Oman, an Arabian country I frequently visit where I regularly eat Arabian, Turkish, and Indian cuisine. It was so awesome to see the food so stunningly described here. They truly made my mouth water.

And the best part? THE PARENTS! Okay, okay, maybe they're not the best part, but they were an awesome factor nonetheless. They were a little on the bizarre side, but I really appreciated how they still looked after Gladys and how they were so worried she might be isolating herself too much. They definitely wanted the best for her, and you can see that in their actions, even if some of them were a liiiiittle misguided. The teacher, Ms. Quincy, was so awesome, too. It was so endearing to see a teacher truly concerned for the well-being of her students, encouraging them to give the very best in what they do. Like Gladys, you can see her passion in teaching. She was so inspirational, and it's really thanks to people like her that kids like Gladys get the courage and confidence to step up.

All in all, this was a cute, endearing, adorable, and stunning MG book that kids and adults alike will surely love. The heroine is awesome, the food is awesome, the writing is awesome, the messages are awesome, the whole package is awesome. This is a must-read, folks! Not only for your heart and mind, but also for your tummy!
Profile Image for Brittany McCann.
1,657 reviews410 followers
February 3, 2022
All Four Stars was written by Tara Dairman and revolves around the life and love for cooking found within an adorable sixth-grader named Gladys.

This book was unexpectedly spectacular. I had no idea how much I was going to love this book. The writing was brilliant and entertaining. I read that it took Tara many years to get this published, almost not happening. I am so happy that she leaped into being a published author because the world would have been missing too much cuteness in Gladys and a wonderful light-hearted story with All Four Stars.

Gladys lives with parents who walk a line of constant crap food and microwaveable “healthy alternatives.” They are not big on utilizing anything past the microwave by cooking. It isn’t until a visit from her aunt at the age of eight that Gladys discovers a whole world of food that she has been missing out on. Thus begins her double life of secret cooking.

I felt pain thinking about how many households may live off of fast food and cheap restaurants instead of exploring their palette. As a mother, I cringed to think of the lack of anything good going into Gladys’ diet at the hands of her parents. I rejoiced in Gladys’ rebellion against constant manufactured food in her quest to reproduce recipes from scratch.

Overall I give this book 5/5 stars. This was a straightforward love in a book for me. I do not often read books such as middle grade, but this book was so much more than a specific age book. As someone who also loves to cook, it would be awesome to see some of Gladys’ recipes into a possible future recipe book. Gladys could inspire anyone to find their own “flavor,” If you already have a love of food or cooking, then I am sure you can easily relate to this book. This book is excellent for pretty much anyone.
319 reviews1,884 followers
June 13, 2014
thank goodness this is worthy of four stars because otherwise I'd have been devastated.
Profile Image for Bonnie.
1,372 reviews920 followers
July 10, 2017
‘Gladys took a bite of her brownie, and a slew of flavors flooded her taste buds. The sweet, melty butterscotch offset the bitterness of the chocolate, and the hint of nutmeg gave the whole thing a kick.’

Gladys Gatsby is a sixth grader that loves nothing more than experimenting in the kitchen. From entrées to pastries, she loves cooking anything and everything. During her latest kitchen experiment involving crème brûlée and a blowtorch, her family’s kitchen curtains went up in smoke and her family finally put a stop to her kitchen shenanigans. When she enters a writing contest in school, her entry ends up in the hands of the Dining Editor at a prestigious New York newspaper and she’s offered a job as a food critic. Keeping it a secret from her family while still completing her assignment is starting to seem to Gladys like an impossibility.

‘...tender duck breast swimming in a lake of tea-infused gravy, with a side of slender asparagus stalks dipping their tips in at the shore.’

Readers will fall in love with precocious Gladys. Her parents prefer take out, rarely using their kitchen, so Gladys never knew what good food truly tasted like. Her eyes were opened to good food when her Aunt Lydia, visiting from France, took her into the city to show her what a real restaurant is. From that point on, she started keeping track of her food experiences (including the bad ones) in a journal. The descriptions of her family’s attempts at cooking were hilarious and cringe-worthy but her descriptions of her more positive food experiences will have you salivating.

‘Their flavors will send your taste buds on a trip around the world: the Moroccan cake features pistachio and cardamom, the Chinese cake has green tea and sesame seeds, and the Belgian cake has chocolate and… well, more chocolate.’

All Four Stars was completely worth all four stars. This endearing middle-grade story will have your taste buds dancing. Much of the story is spent on Gladys’ use of subterfuge in keeping her parents from finding that she’s still cooking (sans blowtorch) but the rest of the pages are full of delectable descriptions of delicious foods that will have you reaching for something tasty to munch on so having something on hand may be wise.
Profile Image for Shannon.
3,090 reviews2,360 followers
August 13, 2017
Just couldn't give this one all four stars ...

Couple of things kept me from loving this book. I was really disappointed with the parents up until about the last chapter. They're just awful people that want nothing to do with their daughter unless it's convenient. Some parts of the plot were also incredibly implausible, like hiring someone without ever meeting them. Most jobs (if not all? I don't know, I've never worked HR), require some form of picture identification. I know I've always had to bring in a driver's license and my SS card to every new job. So ... there goes that whole plot point!

It's a cute story regardless and I liked the main character, Gladys. I'm kind of over the whole "mean, popular, pretty girl everyone wants to be friends with, except the MC, of course," but there was a nice twist thrown in to combat that. And I'm glad Gladys told her friend what was going on instead of needlessly drawing out the lie.

The book ends with a cliffhanger but the second book, The Stars of Summer, comes out in May so I'm glad I don't have to wait too long to find out what happens to Gladys.
Profile Image for Laura Resau.
Author 14 books340 followers
November 25, 2013
A delectable delight! I absolutely loved this book! (I was lucky enough to get a review copy.) Gladys Gatsby is a charming, smart heroine-- a gourmande stuck in a family of fast-food lovers and microwave enthusiasts. It's so much fun to see how she ends up secretly reviewing food for the biggest newspaper out there.

Every page had me smiling and laughing... Gladys has such a funny and sweet voice. There were twists and turns that I didn't see coming, involving friendship subplots and restaurant-critiquing adventures. The parts with slapstick humor were truly hilarious, and I could easily imagine middle-grade readers laughing hysterically. It's the kind of book that works for kids and adults alike... it would be a perfect read-aloud.

This book reminds me of some of my favorite classics. It has some of the exciting, kids-sneakily-navigating-the-grown-up-world elements of From the Mixed-up Files; the unique-writer-kid elements of Harriet the Spy; and the kind of masterful, confident story-telling voice of Kate DiCamillo's beloved books.

I remember how fascinated I was by cooking in upper elementary school, and I imagine that if this book had existed back then, I'd have read and re-read it until it was well-worn and ragged. One of the best things about this book is that it's so yummy to read... it made my mouth water, and even inspired me to make some French potato-leek soup (not one of Gladys' recipes, but still, something new for me.)

Another thing I loved about this book was how Gladys is captivated by international cuisine... from African to French to Indian. The author has traveled all over the world, and it's fun to wonder if she tried these delicacies herself on her travels.

This was a thoroughly charming read, and a stunning debut! I can't wait to read future books by Tara Dairman.
Profile Image for Shoshana.
619 reviews51 followers
March 21, 2014
I am in a clear minority when it comes to not being impressed with this book. I've been enjoying the middle grade food porn cooking themed book trend, but for me, "All Four Stars" didn't hit the standard.

Mostly, I saw this as a case of mediocre writing. The plot itself is fine (if a little belief-straining): 11 year-old Gladys loves cooking, but after setting her kitchen drapes on fire her gross-food-loving parents ban her from the kitchen. Through a series of happy accidents, she's mistaken by the fictional-New York Times dining editor as a legit restaurant reviewer and given an assignment. Thus Gladys must plot and scheme to be able to make it happen. Hijinks, etc.

But when it comes down to it: the parents are exaggeratedly disconnected from their child , Gladys' "amazing" food writing isn't that amazing, none of the characters come off as particularly realistic - just sort of caricatures with no real heart. (See: Charissa, Charissa's family, even Gladys' friend Parm.) Yes, it's middle grade, but that doesn't mean it can't be complex or real.

In the end, I really think "Bliss" and "The Power of Poppy Pendle" did it way better. (Though I did appreciate that Gladys liked to cook a variety of foods, not just bake.)
Profile Image for Laura.
1,375 reviews207 followers
August 21, 2014

Gladys Gatsby had me grinning and giggling with one WHOOSH!

I opened this adorable, sweet looking book to find an eleven year old with a blowtorch! Haha….Needless to say I liked Gladys instantly. It takes a special kind of gumption to torch crème brulee at age eleven. Not sure the kitchen curtains or her parents would agree with me though. :)

Gladys loves food. Savors and craves it. Cooks and bakes it. The girl can do things with a flame, whisk, and spice rack that I could never even dream of. But her parents want her doing “normal” kid activities like hanging out at the mall and making friends. They want her out of the kitchen and on the computer. Haha…A little backwards, but their hearts are in the right place. They want Gladys to experience her childhood—video games, snowball fights, and sleepovers. They don’t realize that cooking isn’t just a hobby or pastime for Gladys though. It is her passion! So when a contest, mistake and twist of fate all come into play and collide, young Gladys finds herself in a world of food opportunities and trouble. Can this determined cutie patootie foodie make her dreams come true or end up in hot water?

This story is a love letter to food! The smells and textures and flavors dance around the pages, tempting and daring readers not to drool or run off to the snack cabinet. Baklava, tiramisu, rhubarb, cashews, cinnamon, tarts and pies…oh-my! My mouth was watering. One of my favorite parts of this story was Mr. Eng’s Gourmet Grocery. This little shop and baker’s paradise possesses such a warm, safe atmosphere. A place filled with love and food! Colors, smells, and awe pop off the page! Nutbins, cheese fridges, pastry cases and the beloved wall of spices. I can smell it all from here! Mr. Eng doesn’t just provide ingredients. His store is a place for Gladys to dream and believe. Believe that one day she will cook and taste beautiful four star meals and treats as a restaurant critic. With food gossip, support, and samples, Mr. Eng feeds and inspires Gladys. Everyone needs support and snacks on the road to their dreams. Mr. Eng’s Grocery is the place to go!

My only complaint in this adventure was at one point Gladys uses someone to get what she wants—a means to an end. It broke the magic spell for me at a pivotal point in the story. Even the meanest girl in the sixth grade doesn’t deserve to be used. No one does.

But that was my only hiccup. The rest of the menu was spot on perfect. A story filled with fun, enthusiasm, and side characters that add wonderful layers of friendship and humor. New foods, flavors, lessons and adventure are all stirred in with huge love and laughs. Gladys will have you dashing off to the local bakery for sure. I mean really how can you not like a girl with a block of super-sharp Japanese knives hidden in her crawl space? :D

Every scoop, sample, simmer and slice will bring a smile to your face.

A very sweet read that whips up the perfect follow your dreams message for readers of all ages.

p.s. For me, a dessert just isn’t a dessert without chocolate. What’s the point without it really? But the descriptions of gajar ka halwa, a north Indian pudding made with carrots, has made me very curious. I must track some down.

Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 19 books2,404 followers
October 15, 2013
Such an adorable book for my first foray into MG, but more than that, as someone who loves to read foodie-ish things, this totally satisfied that craving. All of the food descriptions leap off the page; do not read this book on an empty stomach! Can't wait to buy this one for the big kids in my life :)
Profile Image for Brenda.
848 reviews36 followers
July 17, 2014
I loved the premise of a girl who has a secret life filled with cooking. One that isn't just a hobby, but a true passion. From reading cookbooks to "rolling her own sushi" and keeping a journal of all her reviews, Gladys was such a fun character. I loved how she wasn't hindered by the thought of trying new things, instead she seemed to relish it. I so wish I had a child like that. I found myself giggling at Glady's parents with their idea of cooking consisting of take out, microwaving and lowfat/sugar free meals. One of the things I most enjoyed was how Dairman incorporated dishes and spices representing other cultures, giving the reader the feel of the flavors, textures, color and almost the aroma of the dish. Plus she even has recipes for foods inspired by All Four Stars on her blog, I want to try the Bluebarb Crumble it sounds delicious, here's a link to some of the others, http://taradairman.com/recipes/ Another aspect I enjoyed was when Gladys finally lands her first review and has to find a way to get to New York to complete it, I appreciate that Dairman didn't just have her sneak away from home and hop on a bus, instead she gave Gladys the chance to figure out alternative ways to get there. Even though she kind of does sneak away a little once she gets to New York. And, how cool is it to find a girl that keeps a journal filled with all of her positive and negative food reviews? I especially love the distinction between

"The pork chop, though burnt around the edges, still oozed blood from its center. The peas, which had been microwaved past the point of bursting, arrive at the table in a soggy, mushy state fit for a baby"

and when Gladys is taking a bite of a brownie

"... a slew of flavors flooded her taste buds. The sweet, melty butterscotch offset the bitterness of the chocolate, and the hint of nutmeg gave the whole thing a kick."

One of my favorite characters was Gladys teacher, who recognized that Gladys entry into the writing competition lacked passion and suggested that she rewrite her entry, just wonderful to have someone see your strengths. Gladys was such a fun innovative character with a flair for metaphors and descriptive writing, who I really enjoyed reading about. I just loved the beginning when Gladys tries to make creme brulee, I was laughing out loud. All Four Stars was very light, flavorful with just the right mix of adventure and humor, I can see both adults and children enjoying. It will certainly satisfy your inner foodie.

In exchange for an honest review, an ARC was received from Putnam Juvenile for free via NetGalley for a blog review hosted by The Midnight Garden.
Profile Image for Jenni Arndt.
438 reviews331 followers
June 21, 2014
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…)


For more of my reviews, visit my blog at Xpresso Reads
Profile Image for Michelle.
612 reviews70 followers
November 7, 2019
Probably more of a 3.5, but I truly really enjoyed reading/listening to this, so rounded up to 4. :)
Profile Image for Brittany McCann.
1,657 reviews410 followers
July 28, 2016
Check out my blog to see Reviews of Book and Movies, and check out some Recipes!

I originally read this book last year but it was so great I had to read it again!

This book was unexpectedly spectacular. I had no idea how much I was going to love this book. The writing was brilliant and entertaining. I read that it took Tara many years to actually get this published, with it almost not happening, and I am so happy that she took the leap into being a published author because the world would have been missing too much cuteness in Gladys, and a wonderful light-hearted story with All Four Stars.

Gladys lives with parents who walk a line of constant crap food and microwaveable “healthy alternatives”. They are not big on utilizing anything past the microwave by way of cooking. It isn’t until a visit from her aunt at the age of eight that Gladys even realizes that there is a whole world of food that she has been missing out on. Thus begins her double life of secret cooking.

I felt pain at thinking how many households may live off of fast food and cheap restaurants instead of exploring their palette. As a mother I cringed to think of the lack of anything actually good going into Gladys’ diet at the hands of her parents. I rejoiced in Gladys’ rebellion against constant manufactured food in her quest to reproduce recipes from scratch.

Overall I give this book 5/5 stars. This was an easy love in a book for me. I do not often read books such as middle grade, but this book was so much more than a specific age book. As someone who also loves to cook, it would be awesome to see some of Gladys’ recipes into a possible future recipe book. Gladys could inspire anyone to find their own “flavor” and if you already have a love of food or cooking, than I am sure you can easily relate to this book. This book is great for pretty much anyone. I am happy to see that The Stars of Summer will be coming out this summer as the sequel to this delightful read!
Profile Image for Cheryl.
9,327 reviews399 followers
November 8, 2016
A little too wacky and implausible for me, but just as "scrumptious" so many reviewers have said. I do not sympathize with, or feel the authenticity, of Gladys' parents at all, and not so much of Charissa either. And the ending was just fine, imo. Otoh, I will be looking for the next in the series, so I guess I did enjoy it! You-all probably will, too.
Profile Image for Dre.
246 reviews77 followers
July 8, 2014
Originally posted at Sporadic Reads

All Four Stars is definitely a charming little book. The synopsis said that there will be food, and there were! To be honest, I had dreams about food while reading this book. It was a fantastically scrumptious read!
...like tender duck breast swimming in a lake of tea-infused gravy, with a side of slender asparagus stalks dipping their tips in at the shore.

Gladys Gatsby is fascinated about food. She loves to experiment with different ingredients, but she's only in sixth grade. She abhors eating her parents' cooking, and fast food is the last on her list. Her love for food was heightened when her Aunt Lydia from Paris showed her what a real restaurant is!

Her culinary activities were frowned upon by her parents when a creme brûlée mishap occurred in the kitchen. She was banned from cooking, or doing activities that has anything to do with it. This devastated Gladys. Her parents required her to make friends, and do activities outside of cooking. To me, that's one of the best things that happened to her.

Gladys befriended her neighbor, Sandy. Although the first time that Gladys came over to his house was quite interesting, they became really good friends. Since Gladys was banned from cooking, she found herself enjoying other activities with her new-found friend. They played video games, or played with Sandy's pet rabbits. Gladys lucked out that his mother is interested in food, too! Sandy's mother owns the Larousse Gastronomique - it's the original French cookbook , with over thousands of classic recipes. Gladys was so ecstatic when she saw that! Mrs. Anderson actually knows how to prepare food, unlike Gladys' parents, whose idea of cooking is...
We'll just nuke it until it looks done!

But this book isn't all about cooking. It also tackled about family issues, where the parents were not interested in their kid's passion. For a sixth grader, it must have been really hard to suppress your love for something just to please your parents. This was the one thing about the book that I didn't really like. Her parents were portrayed as people who didn't nurture their kid's talents. There are probably real parents like that. I'm lucky to have parents that encouraged us to pursue our dreams. But what I loved about Gladys was the fact that this didn't stop her passion for cooking.

Even though she couldn't eat at different restaurants, she did review all the meals she had on her journal. Her journal are full of entertaining reviews on the meals she had. Some meals were really good, and some were quite a disaster.
Another Christmas at the big brown buffet. The food this year seemed even browner than usual. Maybe the new heat lamps they got are stronger, like those tanning beds people lie in when they want to pretend they just went on a tropical vacation? The turkey definitely looked like it had spent some time on a desert island – and tasted like it, too.

What made the book quite exciting was the assignment that her teacher, Ms. Quincy, assigned to them. It was to write an essay about their passion. This lead to an amazing food-related adventure for Gladys. With the help of her friends, Sandy and Parm, she was able to make plans to eat at Classy Cakes. Just the name makes me hungry!

Overall, the book was fun, entertaining, and a delicious read! It made me curious about the dishes that were mentioned in the book, like the Indian dish, Gajar ka Halwa. It's made of carrots! So if you want something light, and if you love food, then read this book!

Thank you, The Midnight Garden Tours, for allowing Sporadic Reads to be part of this delicious tour! Visit the kickoff post for All Four Stars to see all the tour stops!
Profile Image for Jenna (Falling Letters).
647 reviews58 followers
August 20, 2018
Review originally published 19 August 2018 at Falling Letters.

I took four years to get around to reading All Four Stars. I’m glad I didn’t drop it from my TBR! Dairman blends an exciting, out-there plot (becoming a food critic) with real childhood concerns (suddenly becoming popular at school, navigating new friendships, etc.). I would love to read more contemporary middle grade like this. All Four Stars offers a cute story while striking a balance between silliness and realism.

The adults demonstrate that balance best. Gladys’ parents’ have an over-the-top attitude towards cooking. Dairman writes this attitude in a tongue in cheek matter, rather than suggesting they’re behaving realistically. I’ve read other novels where this kind of poor judgement from adults seems ignorant and tiresome. In All Four Stars, it feels natural and funny.
Gladys’s parents refused to use the oven or the stovetop- not when they could just nuke things in the microwave. […] “Oh, it all works the same way,” her mom had said as Gladys’s dad scooped spoonfuls of dough directly onto the glass carousel. (9)
Not all the adults in the story oppose cooking. Mr. Eng (local grocery owner), Ms. Quincy (new teacher), and Aunt Lydia make great rolemodels for Gladys. While most of the story is told in third person limited from Gladys’ perspective, behind the scene insights offer a plausible explanation of how the newspaper contacted Gladys, enabled by the antics of tired adults trying to do their jobs. I was reminded of the portrayal of adults in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Dairman portrays them in a similar but less extreme way (with regards to bumbling or helping).

All Four Stars features less reviewing than I expected. The plot hinges on Gladys gaining access to a particular restaurant in order to write her first professional review. Her review of her best friend’s mom’s cooking made me crave Indian food! Gladys strives to overcome obstacles and pursue her passion. I hope I can read more of Gladys’ reviews in the next two books.
Glady went on to describe how the samosa did a good job of soaking up the extra chickpea gravy, and how the minty yogurt cooled her mouth down when the spicy when the spices tickling her tongue threatened to turn into a tornado. Before she knew it, she had written three whole pages wrapping the review up with an exuberant ★★★½ (setting the standard for all dinners to come!) (45)
The Bottom Line: A delightful read if you don’t take it too seriously, I recommend All Fours Stars for readers who want a little more fun in their middle grade fiction beyond the usual challenges of school and family.
Profile Image for QNPoohBear.
3,003 reviews1,481 followers
September 3, 2015
Gladys Gastby loves to cook and longs to be a restaurant reviewer. She has two problems standing in her way: 1) she's only 11 years old and 2) her parents' idea of cooking is to nuke something in the microwave until it loses all edibility or to order take out from a greasy fast food joint in their New York suburb East Dumpford. When an essay she writes for a grade school contest is mistaken for a job application, Gladys is asked by the New York Standard to review a new dessert restaurant in New York City. Gladys has never wanted anything more badly in her life, but after an incident with a blowtorch, her parents have banned her from all cooking related activities for 6 months! How can she make her dreams come true?

This is a cute story in the tradition of Roald Dahl. Once you wrap your mind around that fact and come to terms with the fact that her parents are really, really stupid, the story improves. I soon got caught up in it and wondered if and how Gladys would make it to New York to review the restaurant. (Which I wish was real so I could go there but Serendipity is the closest equivalent). The plot relies on a lot of really improbable circumstances but it's cute and I enjoyed it. I even found some new recipes I might want to try. I wish the recipes were in the back of the book. The author has some on her website but others you have to hunt for.

Gladys is an endearing heroine. I admired her determination and tenacity to achieve her dream. I can't relate to her much but I wanted her to find a solution to her problem. I can relate better to her friend Parm. Parminder's parents are from India and Parm refuses to eat any of their food. She eats two things and boy can I relate to her. Her parents have a good way to get her to voice her complaints properly and I will pass the tip on to my sister. I felt bad for her that she felt betrayed by Gladys and liked the outcome. Sandy is also a great character. I get the impression his peers probably find him a bit odd but that helps him form a friendship with Gladys. He's clever and resourceful like Gladys and his mom is pretty cool too.

Charissa bothers me. She's a Queen Bee spoiled rich girl. She doesn't really have a backstory or explanation about why she is the way she is except for a few hints. She made me cringe with her behavior and I wonder how she will behave towards Gladys in the sequel.

This book is definitely for children 7-12. Adults might enjoy it like I did but won't like Mr. and Mrs. Gatsby at all.
Profile Image for Penny Klostermann.
Author 3 books53 followers
August 2, 2014
I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of All Four Stars. Loved it! I can see middle grade readers eating it up! It's delightfully funny and Gladys Gatsby is an endearing character. In fact, every character in the book is special and memorable. You know how you read a book and you put off reading the last few pages because you don't want it to end??? Well, that was me with All Four Stars. I wanted more of Gladys, more her quirky personality, and more her fun food adventures. So, get your copy pre-ordered because this is one you don't want to miss!
Profile Image for Lisa Maxwell.
Author 11 books1,980 followers
March 25, 2014
All Five Stars!! (Yeah, I know, like you haven't heard that one before)

But seriously, Tara Dairman's debut Middle Grade is just absolutely delightful. It simmers with deliciously rich descriptions of the food its pint-size protagonist cooks up. Poor Gladys Gatsby just wants to make, eat, and write about amazing food. But her parents (Kind and Queen Science Oven) have other plans for her. When she accidentally gets a freelance job at a NY paper as a food critic, she has to figure out how to get to NYC without her parents finding out.

It's seriously delightful.
Profile Image for Jennifer Bertman.
Author 10 books629 followers
December 26, 2014
This book is published today! I had to update my review because it's been months since I read the advance copy, and yet I still think about the characters and laugh at all the funny scenes. This book has the classic writing style and humor of the Harry Potter books, but replace the magical adventures with foodie adventures and you've got Gladys.

This is a fast-paced, funny, and highly-entertaining read. Gladys Gatsby is a lovable character and I can't wait to read more of her adventures!
Profile Image for Karen.
1,406 reviews108 followers
June 17, 2014
4.5 stars

I just can't think of enough ways to say how adorable this book is.

Gladys has a passion for food and cooking but I think this would be an inspiring story for any child who has something in their lives that they love to do. And for parents to help foster that passion.

I can't wait to purchase a finished copy. I bet the illustrations will be fantastic.

My only complaint…the very abrupt ending. I do hope that means there will be a sequel though!

Profile Image for Laurie Thompson.
Author 11 books92 followers
January 24, 2014
This book had me laughing all the way through it from beginning to end! It's a brilliantly crafted middle-grade novel about food-loving Gladys Gatsby, who accidentally lands herself an a trouble after trouble. You can't help but cheer her on as the stakes get higher and higher and she scrambles to try to keep things under control. Middle-grade humor doesn't get any sweeter than this. What fun!
Profile Image for Darla.
3,356 reviews529 followers
March 24, 2017
Gladys Gatsby is my favorite foodie. She knows her way around the kitchen for sure and the book starts out with a bang. The circumstances that lead her to writing her first restaurant review are amazing, but not unbelievable. How long will she be able to keep doing freelance reviews as G. Gatsby and fly under the radar? We will see as the series continues. This book gets "all five stars" from me.
Profile Image for Kristi Helvig.
Author 14 books221 followers
February 8, 2014
Such a fun middle grade book! The premise of a 6th grade girl, with aspirations of food critic stardom, who has fast food, microwave-loving parents is awesome--and the dishes described in the book made me want to go to cooking school. Great debut novel!
Profile Image for Jeannie.
Author 5 books51 followers
April 14, 2014
This book was so much fun! I was laughing all the way through. The odd things that happen to get Gladys into her predicaments, and the funny and clever ways she gets out of them are very amusing. All and all, a fun read, and one that I think middle school kids will really enjoy!
Profile Image for Maybeline Tay.
106 reviews
October 12, 2014
This book is adorable. It had me laughing from the beginning. I love how the book talked about having passion in what we do. A definite plus was the very yummilicious descriptions of the desserts. Now I need my snack....
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