All Four Stars

Tara Dairman. Putnam, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-399-16252-7
In her debut novel, Dairman introduces sixth-grade foodie Gladys Gatsby, who—despite her parents’ inexplicable aversion to all things culinary—endeavors to someday become a food critic for a New York City newspaper. The opening scene, with Gladys accidentally setting fire to the curtains while attempting to make crème brûlée, is more lively than what initially follows, as Gladys is banished from the kitchen, suffers through the trials of school, befriends the kid next door, and tries to figure out what to write for a class essay contest. Dairman’s story picks up again when Gladys’s essay accidentally winds up in the wrong hands and she must become a newspaper food critic overnight. Younger readers (especially those who know their way around a kitchen) will be amused by Gladys’s reviews of her parents’ horrible cooking (“The peas... arrived at the table in a soggy, mushy state fit for a baby”) and her plot to get to New York City without alerting any adults. Though Gladys’s classmates are familiar types, the triumphant conclusion makes this a tasty read. Ages 8–12. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/05/2014
Release date: 07/10/2014
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