All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

ALL FOUR STARS by Tara Dairman coverGladys Gatsby had been doing a great job of keeping her cooking addiction a secret from her parents. But one day she resorts to using the blow torch she found in the garage to finish her crème brûlée and sets the kitchen on fire. Her parents arrive home just in time to witness the fire and are flabbergasted that she’s been doing something as dangerous as cooking. They take away her cooking privileges. Why can’t she just go to the mall after school like a normal kid?

After the little fire-starting incident Gladys is stuck with parent-approved activities: play outside, go to the mall, play on the computer, and she’s nothing less than miserable. Before long, though, Gladys’ new teacher unknowingly sets her on a path to become a restaurant reviewer for a New York newspaper. The only trouble is, she’s going to have to find a way to get to New York without her parents finding out.

This is a fun and funny read. Gladys’ parents are kind and perplexed but otherwise struck me like the parents in Roald Dahl’s Matilda, anxious for her to do all the things most parents don’t want their kids doing. Gladys’ antics in order to achieve her dream were charming and her worry about how she might be using others to achieve it noteworthy.

This is a great middle grade read. There’s such satisfaction, even as an adult, in reading a story in which a kid secretly manages a grown-up job. Kids will cheer to read about Gladys’ adventures and the cast of characters that help her find a way to reach her dreams.

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014.

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