All Four Stars

by Tara Dairman, published 2014

 “Gladys’s dad didn’t believe in recipes, so if Gladys left him alone for even one minute, he’d start throwing in random stuff, saying that experimenting always made a dish taste better. It didn’t…Worst of all, Gladys’s parents… just nuked things in the microwave.”

All Four Stars - Great middle school children's bookIn a lovely role reversal, it’s 11-year-old Gladys who is aching for quality prepared food, while her parents, as depicted in this very funny children’s book, are into take-out pizza, junk food, and worse. So from the start, we have a somewhat unexpected situation. It gets more farfetched when Gladys is invited to write a food review for a New York City newspaper. But part of the charm of this children’s book is that we have a mix of realism with totally unlikely scenarios, allowing us to escape into fantasy, but never stray too far from the real world.

The thread through the story is the message about being true to one’s own passions, regardless of whether they are what everyone else believes in or not, even your parents. And as with any story with a good message, Gladys’s love of cooking is what brings her friendships, enjoyment, and links back to her family. The focus on making things from scratch is particularly appealing, and also aligns well with Waldorf and other educational philosophies.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and found a very unexpected benefit from this children’s book. I’ll admit I’m often inclined to take the easy way out when it comes to food, but as I read the book, I subtly found myself wanting quality rather than junk. If that message is passed to children, wow! Perhaps our child obesity crisis might end as well. Five stars for All Four Stars!

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