Genre: Realistic

STAR SO SWEET Blog Tour & Giveaway: A Delicious Finale!

STAR SO SWEET Blog Tour & Giveaway: A Delicious Finale!Stars So Sweet (All Four Stars, #3) by Tara Dairman
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on July 19th 2016
Genres: Middle Grade, Realistic
Pages: 288
Goodreads
five-stars


Joan Bauer meets Ruth Reichl in this charming middle grade foodie series.

As the summer winds down and Gladys Gatsby prepares to start middle school, she is nervous about juggling schoolwork and looming deadlines from her secret job as the New York Standard’s youngest restaurant critic. When her editor pushes for a face-to-face meeting to discuss more opportunities with the paper, Gladys knows she must finally come clean to her parents. But her perfectly planned reveal is put on hold when her parents arrive home with a surprise:  her Aunt Lydia, one of the only adults who knows her secret, fresh off the plane from Paris. Gladys and Aunt Lydia try one last ruse to fool her editor at the Standard, but even with her aunt’s help, Gladys just can’t manage the drama of middle school and a secret life. It’s time for Gladys to be true to herself and honest with her friends and family, regardless of what those around her think.

Gladys Gatsby is back! And this time it’s in the final installment of the ALL FOUR STARS foodie Middle Grade trilogy by Tara Dairman. You know I (and many others) adored the first two books, ALL FOUR STARS and A SUMMER OF STARS. July 19th, 2016 will see the publication of STARS SO SWEET, and let me tell you, you will not disappointed! You can expect more hilarious antics from Gladys and her friends, as well as challenges and adventures that inevitably come her way. Gladys is starting Middle School, and she is also being offered an amazing new opportunity at her top secret job for The New York Standard as a restaurant reviewer. The surprise arrival of a family member also has Gladys working on yet another project, and then you might remember the famous Hamilton from A SUMMER OF STARS. I won’t give too much away, but it’s possible the child literary star also makes an appearance. To sum up, you can expect more mouthwatering treats from Gladys as well as her creative and interesting attempts to navigate various foodie scrapes and challenges.

Now onto some of the highlights of this Middle Grade treat.

What I Loved

-Gladys’s passion for cooking and all things foodie is front and center in the narrative, as it has been in the last two books.

-Her diverse group of friends and their differing personalities and quirks are part of the action as welll—you’ll find appearances by Parm, Charissa, and Sandy. I assure you—you’ll definitely be laughing throughout the book, just as you probably were with the first two.

-The story features different cuisines and ingredients some readers may have never heard of before! Whether Gladys is browsing Mr. Eng’s specialty food shop or creating Salvadoran pancakes, she is sure to introduce readers to something new in the culinary world. At one point Gladys, Aunt Lydia, and Charissa attend a foodie trade show and sample foods such as biltong (South African beef jerky), antelope meats, yak meat, and even horse-meat bites!

-The rich themes of friendship and becoming comfortable in your own identity (something that can be quite challenging in Middle School) are appreciated and embedded in the narrative without being preachy. I love the way Tara illuminates important and relevant aspects of friendship in her storyline.

-The resolution of all the loose ends, especially regarding Gladys’s top secret job of restaurant reviewer for The New York Standard. The conclusion of STARS SO SWEET is stunning, and everything I had hoped for in the ending to this fantastic trilogy. I know this series will continue to be a popular one in my school library. I already have many students who have been waiting avidly for the last installment in the series. It’s true: Young readers love these foodie books!

-I always love the fact that each chapter features its own title. I especially enjoy that Chapter 21 is called “Irrational Doughnuts.”

Some Foodie Connections

-Gladys receives an assignment from her job: Distinguish between Salvadoran, Peruvian, and Cuban food by visiting restaurants with these cuisines. I decided to bring a few links for you to check out, so that you can do your own investigation of these three different cuisines.

10 FOODS FROM EL SALVADOR YOU NEED TO TRY RIGHT NOW: http://www.theflama.com/10-foods-from-el-salvador-you-need-to-try-right-now-1592974846.html

ESSENTIAL PERU: 10 MUST-EAT DISHES TO SEEK OUT: http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/06/essential-peruvian-cuisine.html

9 DISHES TO MAKE YOU FALL FOR CUBAN CUISINE: http://www.saveur.com/article/-/Cuban-Recipes

FINALLY

I can imagine that yet another reason you would want to purchase the book once it’s out in the world on July 19th is that the cover is as gorgeous as its predecessors and that the trilogy presented together on the bookshelf will be absolutely stunning.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 8.52.46 PM

I’m in denial that this is the last installment of Gladys’s adventures, and I’m hoping that one day maybe we’ll get another book….or a novella, even. I just don’t want to say goodbye…

GIVEAWAY TIME!

Would you like to win a complete set of the ALL FOUR STARS books? I’m running a giveaway, courtesy of Penguin, and one winner (USA only) will receive a complete set of the trilogy. To enter, all you have to do is leave a thoughtful comment about why you are excited to read STARS SO SWEET (or any of the other All Four Stars books)!

If you missed my first interview with Tara, you can explore it here. Also, if you aren’t familiar with All Four Stars, you can read about that here. My thoughts on the second book, The Stars of Summer, can be found here.

REVIEWS OF TARA’S BOOKS

ALL FOUR STARS (Putnam/Penguin, 2014)

*An Amazon Best Book of the Month*

 

THE STARS OF SUMMER (Putnam/Penguin, 2015)

“Hilarious.” – School Library Journal

 

STARS SO SWEET (Putnam/Penguin, coming 7.19.16)

“A tasty dish that series fans should eat up.” -Kirkus

Tara Dairman’s Bio

Tara Dairman is the author of the middle-grade foodie novel ALL FOUR STARS (Putnam/Penguin) which was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month and won a 2015 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award. THE STARS OF SUMMER followed in 2015, and STARS SO SWEET (6/19/16) completes the series. Tara grew up in New York and holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College. After surviving the world’s longest honeymoon (two years, seventy-four countries!), she now lives in Colorado with her family.

Tara Dairman headshot

Links to Find Tara

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Are you excited about STARS SO SWEET? What are some of your favorite memories of Gladys from the first two books?

five-stars
What Katie Read

A Middle Grade Marvel: ALL RISE FOR THE HONORABLE PERRY T. COOK

A Middle Grade Marvel: ALL RISE FOR THE HONORABLE PERRY T. COOKAll Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on March 1st 2016
Genres: Middle Grade, Realistic
Pages: 400
Goodreads
five-stars

From Leslie Connor, award-winning author of Waiting for Normal and Crunch, comes a soaring and heartfelt story about love, forgiveness, and how innocence makes us all rise up. All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook is a powerful story, perfect for fans of Wonder and When You Reach Me.
Eleven-year-old Perry was born and raised by his mom at the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility in tiny Surprise, Nebraska. His mom is a resident on Cell Block C, and so far Warden Daugherty has made it possible for them to be together. That is, until a new district attorney discovers the truth—and Perry is removed from the facility and forced into a foster home.
When Perry moves to the “outside” world, he feels trapped. Desperate to be reunited with his mom, Perry goes on a quest for answers about her past crime. As he gets closer to the truth, he will discover that love makes people resilient no matter where they come from . . . but can he find a way to tell everyone what home truly means?

Don’t let this book escape your grasp!

http://bestanimations.com/Books/Books.html
http://bestanimations.com/Books/Books.html

What I Loved

I loved PERRY T. COOK! What a wonderful, kind, compassionate, and creative eleven year old. I had no idea just how much I would adore this book and Perry’s journey. When the book opens, Perry has spent the first eleven years of his life in the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility where his mother is serving a sentence (for something that Perry knows a little bit about, but not all the details have been revealed to him). At both the correctional facility and out in the wider world where he attends school, Perry brightens the lives of those around him. Perry approaches people by believing there is good within him, primarily because of the kindness with which he has been raised in the prison. Over those eleven years, Perry has become close friends with many of the inmates, and learned a lot about their stories. He recognizes that there are good choices and bad ones to be made, but it seems that Perry is able to distinguish between the idea that people can do bad things and that people are always one way or another. Perry is a strong character, and he gracefully navigates difficulty throughout the story.

Illuminations of Spirituality

There is a definite social justice aspect to this book in that the protagonist (and those close to him) want to see justice for those who have been treated unjustly (particularly within the prison system). Though there may not be concrete actions that Perry can take for all those within Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility, telling their stories is one way he gives a voice to their lives.

The way that Perry sees other people, especially those whom he knows within the prison, brings up another aspect of the spiritual life. When we look at people, do we only see their actions? Do we only see their bad choices? Or can we take the time to look beyond, to the authentic person inside, to the person he/she is becoming? This is an aspect of spirituality that the narrative brought up to me, because, like Perry, we, the reader, also get to know the inmates of Blue River. And I think I can safely say that we also come to care about them.

Who Should Read This Book

Readers in 3rd grade and up would appreciate this fun and thought-provoking title, and anyone who loves Middle Grade with a social justice aspect would do well to pick it up. After reading Perry’s story, I’m planning to look up other books by Leslie Connor, and my hopes are high for future books.

You readers know: When you read a good novel that makes you look at people differently and perhaps with a little more empathy, you can safely say that such a story is doing something wonderful. This is an important story in that it just may change your thinking about people in correctional facilities.

These people have stories worth telling. May Perry T. Cook teach us all a little something!

**Thank you, Katherine Tegen Books, for allowing me to read and review an ARC of this title.**

five-stars
What Katie Read

Kate DiCamillo Returns: RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE

Kate DiCamillo Returns: RAYMIE NIGHTINGALERaymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
Published by Candlewick Press on April 12th 2016
Genres: Middle Grade, Realistic
Pages: 272
Goodreads
five-stars

Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie's picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.

It’s high time I shared my thoughts with you about the new Kate DiCamillo book. Let me say this—when I heard a new book by Kate was coming out, my level of excitement spiked! You know that I adore her books, including THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE, THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT, and THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX, among others.

And now we have RAYMIE. RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE.

group excited

It’s true. Kate DiCamillo has created another endearing and delightful character that will remain in the hearts of readers for many days to come after they have turned the page of the newest book from Kate, published this past April.

I was lucky enough to borrow an ARC from Porter Square Books, and had to stop myself from devouring the book in one sitting. I wanted it to last so tried to take my time (I probably read it in three days!).

I can safely say, it’s wonderful! The story was everything I hoped it to be…and even more. Kate’s storytelling is masterful, and I would venture to say this is a strong contender for the Newbery…

The story is inspired by Kate’s own life, and though this is certainly a “made up” narrative as Kate says in the beginning of the book, it is “the absolutely true story of my heart.” In other words, this book gives us a glimpse even further into the author’s mind and heart, and I would say that the book carries a spiritual aspect for that very reason. In reading this book, I felt like I was connecting with Kate in a new way, and that can be a profound thing!

Quotes that Made Me Think

(Beverly) “I tell you what: Fear is a big waste of time. I’m not afraid of anything.”

“Just then, the sun managed to come around the corner of Isabelle’s window and throw itself into a small square of light on the floor. It was very bright. It shimmered. It looked like the window to another universe.”

“She could feel her soul. It was a tiny little spark somewhere deep inside of her. It was glowing.”

“For just a minute, she understood everything in the whole world.”

The story highlights the friendship among three girls—Raymie, Louisiana, and Beverly. Let me tell you: I love this trio! Beverly is snarky and interesting, Louisiana is surprising and persistent, and Raymie is seeking to fill up her soul. You can imagine that there are mishaps galore, but at the heart of it is a girl who wishes she could win a pageant so that her father will take note and return home. Along with this, though, and even more, is the desire of Raymie’s to fill up her soul. The language that Kate uses in the story to reflect what Raymie is thinking about and wondering reflects a spirituality that I found thought-provoking and authentic. I love the way Kate’s books get to the heart of the big questions in life, all through the window of these endearing child characters.

I don’t want to give away a lot from the story, because it’s just too much of a gem, so this review will be a bit short.

The fact is: you really need to buy a copy and read it. So…Tell me what you think when you do!

side eye dalmations

This one is worthy of all the STARS!

five-stars
What Katie Read
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