Publisher: Penguin

A True Delicacy: All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

A True Delicacy: All Four Stars by Tara DairmanAll Four Stars by Tara Dairman
Published by Penguin on July 10th 2014
Genres: Action & Adventure, Cooking & Food, Humorous Stories, Middle Grade, Realistic
Pages: 288

Are you interested in a fabulous middle grade novel celebrating all things culinary?!?

Today kicks off a fabulous blog tour, hosted by The Midnight Garden, for the new middle grade book, All Four Stars by Tara Dairman!

Don’t worry—the book is out on July 10th, but between now and then, enjoy visiting all the stops on the tour. Spirit of Children’s Literature is on the schedule for this Friday, July 4th, but today I share with you my review of this wonderful story. Stay tuned, however, for a special recipe inspired by the book on Friday!

There’s even more! (That’s how much I loved this book!) An interview with the author, Tara Dairman, will be live on the blog next Monday! You won’t want to miss it—it was so much fun asking Tara about her favorite desserts, her best meals eaten around the world, and a possible sequel to All Four Stars.

The first stop on the blog tour is a Foodie Tour of NYC and giveaway for the book, so go check it out!

Bon Appetit!


All Four Stars by Tara Dairman (2014)

Suggested age range: 8 and up (Two Lions, 294 pages)

Rating: 5/5 stars

Source: e-ARC from Netgalley

Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary Realism

The Book: Gladys Gatsby loves to cook! Her parents: not so much. Mom and Dad are terrible cooks, microwaving meatloaf and preparing gross sandwiches with too much mayonnaise. But by the 6th grade, Gladys is an amazing cook, and delights in buying special ingredients and creating gourmet dishes. Her hobby is ground to a stop, however, after a mishap with a blow torch and crème brulee. Gladys just wants to create in the kitchen—is that too much to ask? When she enters an essay contest for school, her letter accidentally lands her a position as a restaurant reviewer at the famous New York Daily Standard. She receives her first assignment: visit Classy Cakes in NYC and sample their desserts so she can complete her review. How is she going to pull it off when she’s been barred from all things culinary? Dive into All Four Stars and find out how Gladys navigates the challenges of cooking in secret, new friendships, and keeping her young identity a secret.

Spirituality in All Four Stars: Figuring out our place in the world can definitely illuminate a spiritual aspect of our lives. I thought this was an important dimension in the story—Gladys’s growing confidence in who she is. This also leads to her connecting meaningfully with other people and pursuing what she’s passionate about! A kid who visits a shop regularly for specialty ingredients and can cook far better than her parents isn’t always the norm, and Gladys certainly has her share of challenges in the story. The way she navigates them, however, makes room for meaningful discussion about what makes our hearts happy and how to approach situations that stand in the way of that.

Who Should Read This Book: I adored this book, so I’m going to go ahead and suggest that everyone read it! Young readers will love it, young adults would love it, and adults: you too! Gladys’s humorous antics and her interactions with memorable characters at school add spice to the story, resulting in a fast-paced and enjoyable read.

The Final Word: This is a delicious and delightful book that will have you cheering for Gladys as she navigates a world filled with parents who are terrible cooks, undercover baking, and a top secret job as a restaurant reviewer! I loved the way Dairman wove in delectable descriptions of food, and I enjoyed every moment of Gladys’s antics as she makes friends and strives to complete her restaurant review for The New York Standard. I closed the book with a desire to bake a dessert myself in honor of the end of All Four Stars. At the same time, I was sad the story ended. Certainly worth a re-read and strongly recommended! I’m certainly looking forward to reading more from Tara.



What Katie Read

The Impossible Knife of Memory (2014) by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory (2014) by Laurie Halse AndersonThe Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
Published by Penguin on January 7th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Depression & Mental Illness, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 384

For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own. Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

Suggested age range: 13 and up

The Book: Navigating the halls of high school and taking care of a father suffering from PTSD after military time in the Middle East: this is what Haley Kincain is facing at the beginning of Anderson’s new book. Often in detention, Haley is depicted as a typical teenager who doesn’t want to be in school, and is cynical of adults and their attempts to be involved in her life. Can Haley handle the weight of her father’s PTSD and his tendency to drink on her own? When a boy at her school asks for her help with the “newspaper,” she at first refuses, but his persistence eventually results in a new friend. Intense at times, the narrative flashes back to Andy’s experiences in combat, providing a deeper glimpse into the source of his present condition in the story. Though it may seem as if the book is heading down a dark tunnel at first, this story does promise some light at its end.

Spirituality in Impossible Knife: The story highlights the importance of looking beneath the surface of appearances—a person may seem disrespectful, rebellious, and just downright cynical, but sometimes, there is hidden hurt responsible for this. I really didn’t like Haley at first, but she grew on me as the story progressed and I learned reasons why she acted the way she did. Her interactions with some of the adults in the story also reminded me that though we respond with kindness to those who are hurting underneath a façade, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will respond with vulnerability right away. It is persistent kindness and sensitivity that just might be the answer.

Who Should Read This Book: This is an important book, for both young adult and adult readers. Young adults with parents like Andy, might especially appreciate the book. Certainly, it’s an intense read, but it illuminates aspects of a condition that, in many ways, is still misunderstood. Additionally, the book shows how Haley’s dad’s PTSD affects his family and friends. Finally, if you enjoy Anderson’s other books, you should check it out. Whether you like it as much as her other books or not, I know I always enjoy comparing books by my favorite authors.

The Final Word: Though it was difficult for me to connect with Haley at many points in the book, I could still appreciate the way Anderson sensitively treats the issue of PTSD and traces its effects in those around the person suffering from it. I will say that Haley grew on me as the book progressed, and I especially liked the conclusion, but wished some of what transpires in the conclusion had began earlier. I adore Anderson’s work, but I didn’t like this book as much as some of her other work, like Speak, Chains, and Forge.

What Katie Read
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