In this charming sequel to All Four Stars, eleven-year-old foodie Gladys Gatsby now has her first published review under her belt and is looking forward to a quiet summer of cooking and reviewing. But her plans quickly go awry when her friend Charissa Bentley delivers Gladys’s birthday gift: a free summer at Camp Bentley.
As Gladys feared, camp life is not easy: she struggles to pass her swim test and can’t keep the other campers happy while planning lunches. The worst part is she can’t seem to get away from the annoying new “celebrity” camper and sneak away for her latest assignment—finding the best hot dog in New York City. But when it turns out her hot dog assignment was a dirty trick by a jealous reviewer, Gladys’s reviewing career may be over forever. ~ goodreads
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I adored Dairman’s debut mid-grade book, All Four Stars, about aspiring chef and food critic, 11 year old Gladys Gatsby.
The series continues as Glady’s juggles her new (top secret) position as a food critic for the New York Standard’s Dining section with an unexpected trip to summer camp.
Glady’s is thrilled to get cooking detail at Camp Bentley until she meets the very inflexible head cook, Mrs. Spinelli. Glady’s tries to push the boundaries of the bologna on white bread loving campers with little success but she learns to adapt with each challenge she comes up against, even the pretentious celebrity camper, child author, Hamilton Herbertson (who ends up being such a sweetie) and swimming lessons with the roaring Coach Mike.
I love how the author was able to continue Glady’s love of all things food while challenging her with new characters and social situations that would test any 12 year old, including her new assignment - the seemingly impossible search for the BEST NYC hotdog. Will it be Nathan's? One of the many NYC cart hotdogs? The Icelandic pylsur, the Sonoran, the Thai dog, the Chilean complete Italiano or a last minute surprise contender?
The Stars of Summer deftly blends adventure, family, friends (who are not all cookie cutter perfect - which I love), a few twists and *gasp* sabotage! with a feeling of wistfulness, for older readers, of summers past.
While All Four Stars had more of a whimsical feel, this book allows Glady’s to stumble a bit and learn lessons. This would be an excellent book to use as a jumping off point for discussions about friendships, peer pressure and the consequences of lying.
Another thing to love about this series is the diversity - both with food and characters. Read both books with your kids next to a computer or have a notebook handy then go explore all the food and countries mentioned! I’m going to NYC for BEA in a few weeks and I know I have few more cuisines I want to try after reading.
The only weak spot for me (as well as in All Four Stars) is Glady’s parents. Maybe I’m only seeing it as someone who would LOVE if my child wanted to cook all the time, lol, but I wish they were more supportive of her interests. I do think that the author is working towards resolving that as the series progresses though. Both the mother, father & Glady’s stepped out of their comfort zones and bonded a little more in this installment and I can’t wait to see how they handle the events that happened at the end of The Stars of Summer in the next book!
In honor of Gladys's search for the perfect summer hot dog, I decided to try a fun recipe I found in the summer Better Homes and Gardens Garden-Fresh Recipes issue.
This recipe seemed like the right choice for kids and a good way to use fresh farmers market ingredients. I wasn’t sure how it would taste (blueberries & cabbage on hotdogs??) but it was really good!
*Note: I didn’t use brats – instead I used a natural beef hotdog by Maverick Ranch – grilled instead of boiled as in recipe.
Tara Dairman bio:
Tara Dairman is the author of ALL FOUR STARS, which was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month and a Mighty Girl Top Book of 2014 for Teens and Tweens. She is also a playwright and recovering world traveler. She grew up in New York and received 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 husband and their trusty waffle iron.
Social media links:
Tara’s author photo: Tiffany Crowder @ Crowded Studios: http://www.crowdedstudiosphoto.com/
Blog tour button: Kristin Rae: http://www.kristinrae.com/p/blog-page_28.html
Book covers: Kelly Murphy