My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Eleven-year-old, Gladys Gatsby has kept her cooking a secret for years. Until the day her parents come home early from work and discover she’s torched the kitchen curtains.
Gladys simply wanted to caramelize the crème brûlée she’d made. If she had the proper tools it would never have happened. Now she’s banned from cooking altogether, banned from the Planet Food channel, even from cook books for the next sixth months.
Her parents want Gladys to do “normal” kid things, like play more computer games, or go to the mall, and make more friends in general, instead of this cooking thing, which they don’t understand. Her parents’ idea of cooking is to not follow the directions, and throw everything into a microwave. Everything! Even chocolate chip cookies. Though most nights her parents would rather just stop at Pathetti’s Pizza, Fred’s Fried Fowl, or Sticky burgers. Gladys fears she’ll starve over the next sixth months.
Her Aunt Lydia, who lives in Paris, has been the beacon of good food in Glady’s life. “On any given day she might offer her niece a dried persimmon dipped in chocolate, a lavender-flavored sandwich cookie, or a pretzel coated with a green powder called wasabi . . .” When Glady was seven, she secretly brought Gladys into New York City to taste what a real restaurant was like. Gladys’s life changed.
It’s a new year. Glady’s enters the sixth grade, and dreams of pho bo—the Vietnamese beef and noodle-filled breakfast soup she cooked in fourth grade. She keeps notes in the food journal her aunt Lydia sent. But Gladys would never tell the kids at school about her gourmet tastes or talents—they’d only think she was even more of a freak.
Gladys’s new teacher Ms. Quincy wants the class to write an essay for the New York Standard about what they want to do in the future. One will be chosen to represent the school. Gladys is hesitant because she doesn’t want the kids to know that ever since she read her first dinning section of the New York Standard--the newspaper banned by her town--she’s wanted to write food reviews for them. Gladys struggles to write the essay. She doesn’t want to be singled out by her classmates--and if her parents find out what she really wants to do they’d “totally freak” and probably extend her sentence.
But the new boy next-door, Sandy, pushes Gladys to write about what’s really in her heart. A twist of fate turns the tide, and Gladys finds herself the position she’s only ever dreamed of. She will be challenged, and she’ll have to figure out a way to make her dreams happen on her own. I loved this story. This is an ideal book to give to any young budding chefs, or foodies.
Warning: You will become very, very hungry while reading this book. It inspired me to get back in the kitchen and cook up something exotic and delicious. And was so much fun to read. ALL FOUR STARS gets five stars by me. We're giving away a signed hard cover copy!
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