Dairman, Tara. All Four Stars
July 10th 2014
by Putnam Juvenile
Gladys lives in a suburb outside of New York City with her busy parents who hate to cook and think that half baked pizza is good enough for dinner. Gladys, after tutelage from an aunt, takes great delight in good food and hopes one day to be a food critic. She enters a writing contest with an essay to this effect, and this essay ends up on the desk of an editor who is looking to replace a food writer. Gladys receives an assignment-- report on an upscale dessert restaurant, Classy Cakes, and turn in the article to see if the paper likes her writing. Since Gladys is in quite a bit of trouble due to an unfortunate creme brulee accident, her chances of getting in to the city to eat at the restaurant are slim, although she tries going to work with her father, and even worming into the good graces of a classmates who is inviting only one classmate into the city to see a play. All of this secretive activity is bound to catch up with Gladys, but the important this is this: will her parents ever understand her passion for cooking and allow her to explore it?
Strengths: The beginning of this was just brilliant. ALL middle grade novels should start with things exploding or catching on fire! The story then ticked along with fun characters, slightly improbably but totally realistic situations, and a solid plot line. Books about cooking always do very well in my library, so I'm looking forward to having this to hand to students.
Weaknesses: Almost exceeded my quirky limits on names. There were a bunch of snooty girls named after luxury cars, and the town where Gladys lived was Dumpsford, with the attendant East Dumpsford, etc. Students won't mind. Even though I'm not a fan of encouraging students to "follow their bliss" if it's not going to get them remunerative jobs (remember, I was a Latin teacher, and unemployment scarred me deeply), I enjoyed this.