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Aeicha @ Word Spelunking

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Interview and Review: Tara Dairman, author of All Four Stars

I'm thrilled to have Tara Dairman here today to talk about her charming new middle-grade, All Four Stars! Check out our fun Interview below and read my Review...

All Four Stars
by Tara Dairman
July 10, 2014

Meet Gladys Gatsby: New York’s toughest restaurant critic. (Just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.)
Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world.
But in order to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City—all while keeping her identity a secret! Easy as pie, right?

Reading Tara Dairman’s middle-grade debut, All Four Stars, is like biting into a frosting smothered, double chocolate, gooey-centered cupcake: it’s delightfully delicious and will leave you wanting MOAR!

Eleven year old Gladys Gatsby is a definite foodie. Since she was seven, Gladys has secretly been cooking up scrumptious concoctions and dreaming of being a food critic, but, she must hide her passion from her fast-food loving parents. After a dangerous accident in the kitchen (blowtorch, anyone?!), Gladys is forbidden to cook and must come up with a way to pay for the damages. With the help of a school assignment, Gladys is mistaken for a professional food critic and given the foodie chance of a lifetime. All she has to do is keep her new job a secret from her parents, find a way into NYC, and bake her way into the heart of the meanest girl in sixth grade...piece of cake, right?

All Four Stars is a yummy mix of humor, heart, and excitement, blended together with Dairman’s charming storytelling! I love everything about this book, from its fun, refreshing premise and quirky lovable heroine to all the drool-worthy food descriptions. Gladys’ adventures from secret chef to expert food advice giver to undercover food critic are simply irresistible and so much fun, while her everyday dealings with parents that just don’t understand, mean girls, and awkward social encounters are so relatable and often laugh-out-loud funny.

Dairman has cooked up an awesome cast of characters, from Gladys’ friends (the endearing Sandy and quippy, amusing Parm) to her adorkable parents, entertaining mean girl Charissa, no-nonsense teacher, and Gladys’ own foodie superhero Mr. Eng! And, of course, there’s Gladys! Witty, unique, lovable, infectiously quirky Gladys.

Armed with awesome friends, a scrumptious plan, and a lot of determination, Gladys goes on a once in a lifetime adventure to make her foodie dreams come true...and, like any adventure worth having, this one quickly goes amusingly awry!

My Final Thoughts: With its yummy story, fun writing, and endearing characters, All Four Stars charmed and delighted me from beginning to end, and will have young readers devouring it whole!


What three words best describe All Four Stars?
Funny, twisty, and tasty!

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give All Four Stars a try?
Meet Gladys Gatsby, New York’s toughest restaurant critic—just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.

Grab a copy of All Four Stars and answer the following:
favorite chapter?
Chapter 27, which is called “Plan A is Toast.” Gladys faces a lot of obstacles in this chapter, including being trapped in her seat at a terrible Broadway show.

favorite page?
Oh, gosh, that's a tough one. I kind of love page 56, where the reason why Gladys's neighbor Sandy is afraid of her becomes clear.

favorite setting/place?
Definitely the Broadway show in Chapter 27. :)

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentence teaser:
Protocol was a word that Anastasia knew well, since it was everywhere in the interns' manual she had received on her first day at the New York Standard. …if you were assigned to research a story for the newspaper in a town that was only accessible by elephant, the protocol was to rent the elephant first with your own money, then submit a form that listed your elephant rental expenses so you could be paid back after your story was published. (from pages 102-103)

What inspired All Four Stars? How did the story come to be?
I used to work for a magazine in New York, and I edited several freelance writers. Most of them I'd never met in person, or even spoken to on the phone—we only communicated by e-mail. So I started to think that a kid who was a really good writer could probably trick me into publishing her if I didn't know how old she was. And I was very interested in food and cooking (still am!), so I decided to make the kid in my story a wannabe restaurant critic.
There are so many wonderful characters in All Four Stars (I especially love Parm!), but Gladys is especially awesome...can you tell us a little bit about Gladys? What sets her apart from other middle-grade heroines and what makes her unique?
Thanks, Aeicha! I love Parm, too—of all the characters, she's probably the most like I was at that age when it came to food (I was such a picky eater). But Gladys, of course, is very close to my heart. While there are plenty of shy, loner-type young heroines out there, I like to think that Gladys brings a whole new level of social anxiety to middle grade. :) She really would rather be alone with her pots and pans and reviewing journal than spend time with other people. Part of her journey in the story is learning the value of connecting with others—including people with whom, on the surface, she might not seem to have anything in common.

In All Four Stars, Gladys makes and eats a lot of different food, some super yummy, some not so much...what’s your favorite food or meal in the book? What’s the last four stars worthy food/meal you had?
In All Four Stars, all of the desserts that Gladys makes for Charissa are inspired by favorites of mine in real life. Apam balik (Malaysian peanut pancake) and gajar ka halwa (Indian carrot pudding) are amazingly delicious, and my husband and I had bluebarb pie at our wedding because it combined his favorite kind of pie (blueberry) and my favorite (rhubarb). You can find a recipe for bluebarb crumble and for other treats from the book on my website at

As for my last four-star meal...well, on a recent trip to Massachusetts, I had my first-ever clam roll at a roadside shack called Bob Lobster. ( It was huge and delicious!

As a former world-traveler, do you have an absolute favorite place you’ve visited? Is there somewhere you haven’t visited, but really want do?
It's so hard to narrow things down and pick a favorite place...but if someone offered to instantaneously transport me to a nature bath in Iceland, a beach in Mozambique, or pretty much anywhere in Yunnan province, China, I wouldn't say no. :)
As for my next destination, I really want to go to Bhutan, and am hoping to get there within the year!

What’s the most rewarding aspect of being an author?
I love that being an author lets me indulge both my introverted and extroverted sides. I spend a lot of time alone, immersed in the worlds of my stories, and nothing's better than a writing day where things really feel like they're working. But I also get to attend book launches and conferences and writerly meet-ups that let me connect with other people who love writing and reading. So I really have the best of both worlds.

Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at board games.

I’m really embarrassed to admit that I have awful taste in music. Seriously, I cringe to imagine some of my musician friends getting a glimpse of my Spotify playlist. I guess all that Lite FM my mom played in the car growing up really wormed into my brain.

The last great book I read was a new middle-grade manuscript by my critique partner Ann Bedichek, called The Hammer is Me. I'm so excited for it to go out on submission to editors!

If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by All Four Stars, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
Oh, wow—good question! Well, I love filled cupcakes, so if I could come up with one that had a blueberry-rhubarb filling and some nuts sprinkled in the icing on top, I think that'd be awesome. I'd call it Gladys Gatsby's Bluebarb Surprise.

Thanks so much for having me at Word Spelunking, Aeicha! And for taking the time to read and review All Four Stars!

You are so very welcome, Tara! And thank YOU for stopping by today!!

Tara Dairman is the author of the middle-grade novel ALL FOUR STARS, which will be published by Putnam/Penguin in 2014. She is also a playwright and a recovering round-the-world honeymooner (2 years, 74 countries!). 
Tara holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. 

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