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. ~ Goodreads
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Source: ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
It’s always so difficult for me to write my reviews for this series. I just want to spin and twirl and say things like It’s delightful! & call it a day. Not because I don’t have a lot of wonderful things to say about the All Four Stars trilogy, because I do. It’s just that once I set each volume down, I’m so happy (& hungry) that I would rather shove the book in everyone’s hand and say READ THIS, rather than try to come up with the words to explain the love that this series inspires.
A quick recap: Gladys is a pint size aspiring chef and part time, secret food critic for the New York Standard. Her parents don’t know – or understand Gladys’ food obsession. The series follows her as she struggles to meet her review obligations, while doing 12 year old things like summer camp, going to a new school and making friends all while finding time to follow her passion – cooking.
The All Four Stars trilogy is mid-grade but don’t let that deter you. This is a series for all ages. Dairman never talks down to the reader and whether you are 8 years old or 80, you will find something that appeals.
Stars So Sweet concludes Gladys Gatsby’s adventures as a secret restaurant food critic. Things have reached a tipping point with Gladys entering 7th grade, her favorite aunt moving in after losing her job in France, trying to handle her first crush and a job offer that she can’t refuse – but also can’t tell her parents about.
I can’t think of a better book to sit down and read with your kids. It opens your eyes to different cultures, foods, languages and is an excellent jumping off point to discuss diversity, responsibility and relationships of all kinds.
And of course there’s the food! Each book has centered around a certain type of food/culture and I have tried to make a recipe inspired by Gladys each time. Stars So Sweet went out with a bang, foodie wise. There’s French food, bake sales (pumpkin bars, brownies, doughnuts!) Cuban, Salvadoran and Peruvian dishes. Then there’s the challenge her neighbor, and best friend, Sandy, takes on to find the ugliest, stinkiest food.
Since I just purchased a rice cooker, I decided to try a traditional Peruvian dessert – rice pudding – Arroz con Leche. The website LimaEasy had a fun guide to Peruvian Desserts and Cakes. I did a combination of their recipe with my basic rice cooker recipe, adding the orange zest and cinnamon stick for flavor. I hope I did Gladys proud with my farewell recipe.
I’m so sad to see her go but also happy she went out on a high note. Perfect end to the perfect series!