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“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.”
Summary: Gladys Gatsby loves to cook, enjoys trying new foods, and keeps a journal with all of her favorite meals. Unfortunately for Gladys, there isn't a lot of gourmet food in East Dumpsford, New York, AND her parents prefer take-out ... at least until the "kitchen curtain incident." As a result of her cooking mishap, Gladys was no longer allowed to read cookbooks or cook, and her parents took turns cooking "meals" at home. While she's trying to regain her kitchen privileges, Gladys' essay about being a restaurant reviewer lands on the Food Editor's desk at the New York Standard. The unsuspecting editor offers Gladys a job and asks her to write a review of a new dessert restaurant in New York City. What a pickle! How is Gladys going to get to the city, get into the restaurant, get home and write her review - all without telling her parents?! Choices, family and following your dreams are at the center of this middle grade novel.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, anytime reading, read aloud book, independent reader
Recommended Age: read together: 10 and up; read yourself: 12 and up
Interest Level: 11 and Up
Reading Level: 6
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: I love the story and the premise of pursuing your dream. I thought that friendship - and how it works / doesn’t - is a well developed subplot. The relationships with Praya (long-time friend) and Sandy (reluctant friendship) are great contrasts. Both demonstrate how friends can influence and support you in different ways. But! I think there are better models than Gladys. I didn't like how Gladys flat-out used people (Charisse, Mrs. Anderson) to get what she wanted. This is a fun book to read, and there were plenty laugh-out-loud moments. But it fell flat as a book when the story wshifted from exaggeration (her parents, restaurant trip) to realistic fiction (using other people, lying to get your way).
Pros: Readers who like Ramona Quimby will find another friend in Gladys Gatsby. Over-the-top parental caricatures and pratfalls will have you laughing from beginning to end.
Cons: I *get* why Gladys needed to go behind her parents’ backs, but I am always uncomfortable with demonstrating (and by extension promoting) that kind of reasoning in books that are read by her peers.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. Enjoy the story as a read aloud from the library, then decide if it is something you want to put on your permanent shelf. This is a definite for class read-alouds.
Educational Themes: There is an obvious safety message in what is / isn't allowed when parents aren't home, but let All Four Stars help you start the conversation with kids about what their dreams are and ways you can help them. Other topics that are easy to draw from the story: what is/isn't friendship; how to make friends (being open to friends); choices and consequences; and trust.
Notes: A Reading Tub volunteer borrowed this book from the library. She read it for the 2014 Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Award (Cybils) process. It was a Middle Grade Fiction finalist. This review is not intended to represent the opinions of the Cybils.