Release day for ALL FOUR STARS!

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman Cover

It’s here! A mere 9 years after I started writing it and 2+ years after I sold it, All Four Stars is a published novel. Hooray! Please excuse me while I stuff my face with something delicious to celebrate.

Giant sandwich

Okay, I’m back. *wipes away crumbs* Here’s a blurb about the book:

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 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?


Advance praise for All Four Stars

*An Amazon Editors’ Pick For Middle Grade Summer Reading*

Gladys is a lovable character with plenty of spunk and desireand readers will happily cheer her on, while the fresh plot adds a delicious dimension to the host of stories set in sixth grade. -BOOKLIST

The [restaurant-reviewing] plan goes disastrously and hilariously awry, but Gladys and fine food ultimately triumph. The characters are well drawn…Give this one to your young foodies. -SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

Younger readers (especially those who know their way around a kitchen) will be amused by Gladys’s reviews of her parents’ horrible cooking (“The peas… arrived at the table in a soggy, mushy state fit for a baby”) and her plot to get to New York City without alerting any adults. The triumphant conclusion makes this a tasty read. -PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Gladys turns out to be surprisingly canny and resourceful…and Gladys’s psychological journey and personal transformation are solid and credible. [An] entertaining story about the joys of following one’s bliss. -KIRKUS

“Readers will cheer for Gladys, laugh at her misadventures, and find themselves suddenly hungry for a tasty treat. A scrumptious gem of a story!“ -JENNIFER A. NIELSEN, New York Times bestselling author of The False Prince


If you happen to be in New York City, come join me at the official launch party TONIGHT at Books of Wonder (6pm)!

And if you’re not, then you can join the online party with the official All Four Stars blog tour, hosted by The Midnight Garden, which is loaded with fun extras and chances to win the book.

You can also request it at your local library or find it at any of the following places:

Your local independent bookstore (find one here) * Penguin * Powell’s * BAM * B&N * Amazon * Walmart * Indigo * Book Depository

I hope that you enjoy reading All Four Stars as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Tara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering round-the-world honeymooner (two years, 74 countries!) who now lives in Colorado. Her debut middle-grade novel, ALL FOUR STARS (Putnam/Penguin, 7/10/14), tells the story of an 11-year-old girl who secretly becomes a restaurant critic for New York’s biggest newspaper.

Yum! Chatting about food in kidlit

The rise of the “foodie” book is one of our favorite new developments in kidlit, and this spring/summer is seeing the launches of two foodie-themed OneFour titles! Cupcake Cousins by Kate Hannigan (Disney-Hyperion, May 13) tells the story of fourth-graders Willow and Delia, two cousins who are hoping that their skills in the kitchen will earn them a promotion from flower girls (bleh!) to pastry chefs (yum!) for their aunt’s wedding, and All Four Stars by Tara Dairman (Putnam/Penguin, July 10) introduces sixth-grader Gladys Gatsby, who secretly becomes a restaurant critic for the all-powerful New York Standard newspaper.

Kate and Tara came together to answer four questions about food, writing, and the celebrity chefs who changed their lives. What could be more delicious?

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman CoverWhy are your characters so interested in food?

Tara: Gladys’s interest in food definitely springs from my own experiences. When I conceived of her character, I was in my mid-20’s, living in New York City, experimenting with recipes in my apartment’s tiny kitchen and trying new restaurants whenever my budget would allow. It felt like quite the culinary adventure compared to my suburban childhood in a family of microwave and take-out addicts–and I thought that the tension between those two worlds might be an interesting backdrop for a kids’ story.

Kate: And it’s funny because with the popularity of cooking shows, today’s kids are more exposed to the idea of good food and wonderful recipes. So food is definitely a popular topic. My characters are so interested in food because my kids are. They want to experiment with the things they see on Cupcake Wars  or Chopped. I found that when my daughter was in third and fourth grades, when friends came over, they wanted to bake cupcakes together. So a lot of what happens to Willow and Delia in my book comes from watching my own kids and their friends.

Why did you focus on food with your book?

Cupcake Cousins Cover medium fileKate: I wanted to create strong and interesting girls who are deeply engaged in their interests. Girls “making and doing” and really living life. And I think cooking and food are easy access points for engaging kids. Who doesn’t love a cupcake?

When kids get in the kitchen and start understanding what goes into the food they eat, they begin to take ownership of things. Not necessarily in big ways, but it’s laying a foundation for so much. Dumping in a quarter cup of this, one-third cup that, doubling recipes. Suddenly, they’re a whiz at fractions! When they see what binds together in a recipe, they’re gaining a sense of science in action.

And there is so much pride in a dish well-served. I think cooking is an easy and fun way to help kids gain a sense of self – self-identity, confidence, and all those great traits that come with feeling competent in something. Plus, it’s fun.

Tara: I love your reasons, Kate! I agree that kids have a great capacity for becoming deeply engaged in specific areas that intrigue them, so making Gladys somewhat obsessed with food and cooking was an easy choice. And on the reader side, well, we all have to eat, right? So a food-driven plotline seems to be something that any kind of reader can connect with, even if they’re not chefs or foodies themselves.

Who has been the most influential person in your food life? 

Tara: Mark Bittman–author of How to Cook Everything–literally taught me how to cook everything. I was 20 years old and had never boiled a pot of water when a friend recommended that cookbook to me as a good place to start learning. I still use it today, though its dust jacket is long gone and its binding is totally cracked. I probably should have dedicated All Four Stars to him….well, there’s always the sequel. 🙂

Kate: My influences are more like a salad bar – I pick and choose this and that. So it’s hard to think of one person who had the most impact. But I will say that I am most inspired by Chicago restaurateur Stephanie Izard. She’s not only the executive chef of one of the city’s very best restaurants, Girl & the Goat, but she was also the first woman to win Bravo’s “Top Chef.” I have so much respect for her as she’s risen to the top in a male-dominated field. Anytime I have a reason to celebrate, I dine at Stephanie’s Girl & the Goat. She’s a remarkable woman and a great role model for girls who want to be chefs when they grow up. And she was nice enough to read Cupcake Cousins and comment on it for the book cover.

Tara: A blurb from a real-life chef—how awesome, Kate! 🙂

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever made/eaten?

Whoopee Pies w Olivia

Kate’s whoopee pie coming at ya!

Kate: I’ve gone dessert crazy in recent years, making a malted milkball cake I saw on Pinterest, insane chocolate-raspberry cakes at Christmastime, and Halloween cakepops for my kids (two October birthdays in our house). Plus I test all the recipes that are in Cupcake Cousins on my family over and over again. But the dish I’m most proud of making has to do with Julia Child. After watching the movie Julie & Julia, which featured Irma S. Rombauer (author of The Joy of Cooking) together with Julia herself, I was inspired to try Irma’s Boeuf Bourguignon. So in the same red French oven as in the film, I made the most amazing dish, complete with a French accent. It was a hoot, and I am still very proud of it. Though I’ve never attempted it again. . . !

Tara: Kate, you’ve got me drooling! When can I come over for dinner (and dessert)??

Green tea cupcake batter! It's green!

Tara’s green tea cupcake batter–it’s green!

I’ve also been testing recipes inspired by All Four Stars on my family and friends over the past year (and will be sharing the results soon on my website). One of the wackier recipes I had to “invent” was green tea cupcakes with sesame icing. Matcha green tea powder and tahini (ground sesame seed paste) both have strong flavors, so it definitely took some experimenting to get the balance right.

As for coolest thing I’ve ever eaten…well, I was lucky enough to spend two years backpacking around the world, so I sampled quite a few interesting dishes in that time. I’m not sure what to award the “coolest” crown to—hippo jerky (Zambia)? Fermented camel’s milk (Mauritania)? Donkey (China)?

I’ll go slightly less exotic and choose pan de yuca—Colombian cheese bread. Found in Colombia, Ecuador, and a fantastic little bakery in Chelsea, Manhattan called Big Booty Bread (where they’re also called “cheese rocks”). If mac and cheese were a gluten-free bread, it would be pan de yuca. Yum.

Hungry for even more?

Find Kate Hannigan at her website, on her blog, or on Twitter!
Find Tara Dairman at her website/blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter!


GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Peggy Eddleman, Author of SKY JUMPERS

Today we have the pleasure of featuring Lucky13 Peggy Eddleman, whose debut middle-grade novel SKY JUMPERS hits the shelves on September 24! Here’s the blurb:

SKY JUMPERS12-year-old Hope lives in White Rock, a town struggling to recover from the green bombs of World War III. The bombs destroyed almost everything that came before, so the skill that matters most in White Rock—sometimes it feels like the only thing that matters—is the ability to invent so that the world can regain some of what it’s lost.

But Hope is terrible at inventing and would much rather sneak off to cliff dive into the Bomb’s Breath—the deadly band of air that covers the crater the town lives in—than fail at yet another invention.

When bandits discover that White Rock has invented priceless antibiotics, they invade. The town must choose whether to hand over the medicine and die from disease in the coming months or to die fighting the bandits now. Hope and her friends, Aaren and Brock, might be the only ones who can escape through the Bomb’s Breath and make the dangerous trek over the snow-covered mountain to get help.

For once, inventing isn’t the answer, but the daring and risk-taking that usually gets Hope into trouble might just save them all.

And here’s the terrific trailer for SKY JUMPERS:

Peggy and I spoke about her inspiration for the novel and her road to publication.

Peggy Eddleman 2Congratulations on your debut, Peggy! In SKY JUMPERS, inventing is a crucial skill that will help the few people left on Earth rebuild civilization. Clearly, you had to be very inventive, too, to imagine a world in which some futuristic technology (like the “green bombs”) exists, but where a lot of the technology we have today has been lost. How did you achieve that balance?

The balance mostly came in during revisions. It was difficult to bring out just the right amount of references to technology that we have now, and mix it with the much lower level of technology that they had after the green bombs hit, especially since much of that technology was now impossible. One of the things that was most fascinating to me to think about was the fact that the main character, Hope, grew up with the way things are being “normal,” because that’s how they always were for her. But there are people in her town who were alive before the bombs, and know what it was like to live with all the technology we have now (and more). So, unlike the first time when technology advanced, people actually knew what was possible, and wanted to try to find a way to get to that same point again.

I found the geography of White Rock—where most of SKY JUMPERS takes place—fascinating. It’s basically a crater created by a green bomb, with the center of town at the lowest point. Is White Rock based on a real place, or is it completely a product of your imagination?

If it exists somewhere, I WANT TO GO THERE. No–it was just a product of my imagination, but I would seriously go there if I could. And I would sky jump regardless of the possibly dying. I would freak out, though, if my kids even thought of it. 😉 Using the crater as a place to live really came into existence because I wanted the book to take place on the great plains, but I needed mountains for the Bomb’s Breath to even be an issue. And what makes for a more unexpected, ironic setting than the few people who remained living inside the crater of the thing that wiped out most of the population?

In a key section of the book, the main characters must embark on a journey through a frigid landscape. You really made the cold feel real (to the point where I wanted to drink a hot cider in the middle of July!). Did you draw on any frigid experiences of your own to create those scenes?

Very much so. It gets pretty frigid in the winter where I live, and I’ve been out in my share of snowstorms. One of the biggest experiences I drew from, though, came from rain–not snow. I was a leader of a group of teenagers who were reenacting part of the trip where pioneers crossed the plains in the middle of winter. We were crossing Rocky Ridge in Wyoming–a place where the pioneers had to go on a forced march in a snowstorm to make it to safety. It was summer, but the weather turned so quickly that the temperatures dropped almost instantly, and the rain poured down so hard and so fast that we were soaked all the way through within seconds. We were only a few miles into a sixteen mile climb, and between the temperatures dropping so drastically and the freezing rain, the muscles in our legs quickly became numb. That’s when I finally understood why it was a “forced march” for those pioneers–if you stopped anywhere along that trail with the weather so bad and your legs so numb, your muscles would freeze and there’d be no way to go again. The only thing that was keeping your muscles warm enough to use was actually using them. It was an experience I was so grateful to have had (and not just because it really helped in writing those scenes :)).

Speaking of journeys, what’s been the most unexpected aspect of your journey to publication so far?

How awesome people are, and how much support comes from so many unexpected places along the way.

Since this community is “All For One and One Four Kid Lit” we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid.

The three books from my childhood that stand out the most because of the impression they made on me were:

  • The Boxcar Children, because I loved the concept of kids being able to make it on their own, and to find a way to survive. I also loved how inventive they were in coming up with solutions to the problems they faced.
  • The Dark is Rising, probably because of the snow! What kid doesn’t secretly wish that it will snow all the way up to the top of their house?
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, because the setting was so unique because it was seen from the point of view of a mouse. And the concept of the rats becoming as smart as humans was fascinating.

Thank you, Peggy!

Thank YOU, Tara! It’s been a blast being here. I wish you and the other 2014 debut authors all the best!

You can find Peggy online in the following places:


And here’s where you can buy SKY JUMPERS:

IndieBound   Barnes & Noble   Amazon  Books-A-Million   Indigo Books   Powell’s Books

Tara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering round-the-world honeymooner (two years, 74 countries!) who now lives in Colorado. Her debut middle-grade novel, ALL FOUR STARS (Putnam/Penguin, Summer ’14), tells the story of an 11-year-old girl who secretly becomes a restaurant critic for New York’s biggest newspaper.

GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Melanie Crowder, Author of PARCHED

Today’s Lucky13 interview is with Melanie Crowder, whose debut middle-grade novel PARCHED hit the shelves on June 4. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Melanie Crowder PARCHED book coverA mesmerizing debut about a girl, a boy, and a dog struggling to survive in a parched and barren land.

Sarel is a girl with secrets. She knows which tree roots reach down deep to pools of precious water. But now she must learn how to keep herself and her dogs alive. Nandi is the leader of those dogs. She knows they can’t last long without water—and she knows, too, that a boy is coming; a boy with the water song inside him.

Musa is that boy. His talent for finding water got him kidnapped by brutal men, yet he’s escaped, running away across the thirsty land that nearly claims his life. And so Sarel, Musa, and the dogs come together in what might be their last hope of survival.

Congratulations on your debut, Melanie!

Thanks Tara! And congratulations to all you OneFours on your debuts as well!

The setting of PARCHED—a world with almost no fresh water left—is both frightening and frighteningly believable. Can you tell us how you first came up with it?

The story started for me as an image: an aerial shot, as if I were in a plane flying low over the savanna. On the ground below, a skinny girl and her pack of dogs walked along a narrow path. I wanted to know who she was, and how she had come to be all alone in such a harsh place.

As I began to research the setting, I discovered that I only had to nudge the real life situation in order for potable water in the region to run out, allowing for fear and desperation to turn the city over to gangs. Right now, in the place where my book is set, mine tailings threaten to poison underground aquifers and drought comes with regularity. All I added to the situation was rising sea water, something that, unfortunately, is coming all too soon.

The narration of PARCHED dances between the perspectives of Sarel, a young girl, Musa, a young boy, and Nandi, a Rhodesian ridgeback (and probably my favorite character). Did you have any trouble finding the voice to write from a dog’s perspective?

Nandi’s voice came very easily to me. Of course a dog’s voice would be in present tense. It would be sensory: bursts of images, smells and actions. Complete sentences would be absolutely wrong!

The difficult part was honing that voice to make it accessible for the reader. It’s almost like I was acting as translator, not a writer, for her chapters—trimming and clarifying so the reader could find her way into Nandi’s mind.

PARCHED is a slender book, clocking in at 144 pages—but it packs the punch of a much longer novel. Are you generally a less-is-more kind of writer?

Yes. Absolutely, yes!

And those 144 pages are so much more fleshed out than my original … it’s almost as if my editor was acting as a translator between me and my future readers!

I know that the story behind your first book deal is a little unconventional, since you didn’t have an agent or “go out on submission” to lots of editors. Would you mind sharing how you ended up at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt?


I wrote PARCHED when I was supposed to be working on other things during the third semester of my MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Little by little, in between drafts of my critical thesis, the story began to take shape. By the end of the semester, I had 20 pages ready. I crossed my fingers and sent them in to be considered for the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt prize for Middle Grade Literature. When I won (!), I received a request for the full manuscript. Months went by, I graduated, finished the story and sent it in, revised, and then scurried to find an agent just in time for the sale! It was about a year from the time my editor got the first 20 pages to the time when the book sold, and another year and a half until release day. It has been a long and eventful few years—and I can’t wait to do it all over again!

As this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid.


When I met Katherine Paterson a few years ago, I only got halfway through a sentence about how much her stories meant to me as a kid before I started crying. How embarrassing! For both of us!


I was Ramona Quimby as a kid. A well-intentioned but disastrous force of nature.


This was the first book to come along and nudge me out of the bubble of my own experience. Harriet became my childhood hero.

Thanks, Melanie!

Melanie Crowder Author PhotoABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Melanie Crowder graduated in 2011 with an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of the middle-grade novel PARCHED (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013).

A West Coast girl at heart, Melanie now lives and writes in the beautiful (if dry) state of Colorado.


Here’s where you can buy PARCHED:

IndieBound   Barnes & Noble   Amazon  Books-A-Million   Indigo Books   Powell’s Books

Tara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering round-the-world honeymooner (two years, 74 countries!) who now lives in Colorado. Her debut middle-grade novel, THE DELICIOUS DOUBLE LIFE OF GLADYS GATSBY (Putnam/Penguin, Summer ’14), tells the story of an 11-year-old girl who secretly becomes a restaurant critic for New York’s biggest newspaper.


We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. One author, four questions. Today we’re talking to Tara Dairman, author of THE DELICIOUS DOUBLE LIFE OF GLADYS GATSBY. Here we go!

What’s your debut book about? Can you share any cool details with us?

Thanks for asking! Here’s my blurb for THE DELICIOUS DOUBLE LIFE OF GLADYS GATSBY:

Gladys Gatsby has dreamed of becoming a restaurant critic for New York’s biggest newspaper—she just didn’t expect to be assigned her first review at age 11. Now, if she wants to meet her deadline and hang on to her dream job, she’ll have to defy her fast-food-loving parents, cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy, and battle Manhattan’s meanest maitre d’.

As for cool details, I can reveal that the book also features a crème-brulée-triggered fire, troublemaking rabbits named Edward and Dennis Hopper, and a plotless Broadway show that bills itself as “the first musical ever to be based on a teen magazine.” 🙂

Gladys sign in Moshi, Tanzania

A sign I found randomly in the town in Tanzania where I finished drafting my book!

So, you’re getting published! How’d that happen?

I drafted Gladys Gatsby very slowly from 2005 to 2010, squeezing in writing time between work, producing plays in festivals, and an epic round-the-world honeymoon (more on that below). Then in late 2011, I entered a contest at Miss Snark’s First Victim, where agent Ammi-Joan Paquette spotted it and requested that I query her. A couple of months later, she was my agent, and a couple of months after that (and after a nail-biting round of requested revisions) we sold Gladys to Putnam!

So, in the end, it will be nine years from when I started writing this book to its publication. But it has absolutely been worth the wait.

What do you do in your daily life outside of writing?

I teach writing to kids and I do some freelance editing. There really is no escaping the written word for me!

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

Good to eat. Not so comfy to ride.

Good to eat. Not so comfy to ride.

1) As I hinted above, I’m a veteran of a very long honeymoon—74 countries long, to be exact! Three weeks after we got married in 2009, my husband and I took off for South America, and we didn’t stop traveling for two years. We ended up visiting all of the countries in South and Central America, about half the countries in Africa, and a good swath of Asia and Eastern Europe. If you’re interested in more details, you can find our travel blog at andyandtara.com.

2) Before I turned to middle-grade fiction, I wrote plays, most of which would be totally inappropriate for a young audience. (One critic called my play PB&J “equal parts Arsenic & Old Lace and Cabin Fever with a Lorena Bobbitt slant.”) I still wonder how I’ll reconcile these two sides of my writer personality in the future, but at least Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl have blazed that trail before me.

3) Thanks to our travels, I’ve eaten and ridden some interesting animals. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned:

-Hippos make tasty jerky.

-Ostriches are crazy fun to ride.

-One-humped camel tastes way better than two-humped (but two-humped is way more comfortable to sit on).

And finally…

-Just because you like duck and tongue does not mean you will like duck tongue!

Tara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering round-the-world honeymooner (two years, 74 countries!) who now lives in Colorado. Her debut middle-grade novel, THE DELICIOUS DOUBLE LIFE OF GLADYS GATSBY (Putnam/Penguin, Summer ’14), tells the story of an 11-year-old girl who secretly becomes a restaurant critic for New York’s biggest newspaper.