In this charming sequel to All Four Stars, eleven-year-old foodie Gladys Gatsby now has her first published review under her belt and is looking forward to a quiet summer of cooking and reviewing. But her plans quickly go awry when her friend Charissa Bentley delivers Gladys’s birthday gift: a free summer at Camp Bentley.
As Gladys feared, camp life is not easy: she struggles to pass her swim test and can’t keep the other campers happy while planning lunches. The worst part is she can’t seem to get away from the annoying new “celebrity” camper and sneak away for her latest assignment—finding the best hot dog in New York City. But when it turns out her hot dog assignment was a dirty trick by a jealous reviewer, Gladys’s reviewing career may be over forever.
My kids and I were thrilled to read an ARC of THE STARS OF SUMMER, as we’d loved ALL FOR STARS. Today I’m delighted to be talking with the books’ author, Tara Dairman.
Hi, Tara! One of my favorite things about your writing is the way you present girl/boy friendships, making your books appealing to all kids. (My son really enjoyed THE STARS OF SUMMER!) Did you have boys as close friends growing up? How important do you think it is that we move away from labels like “Boy Books” and “Girl Books?”
Thanks so much, Louise! I’m so glad you and your son enjoyed Gladys’s relationships with her friends, male and female. Sandy, Gladys’s best friend, isn’t based on anyone in particular from my real life, but I did have good friends who were boys as a middle-grader and teenager. And now, as a homeschool writing tutor, I love putting great books in the hands of my students regardless of the reader’s gender and of whether there’s a boy or a girl on the book’s cover. I think that we’re really shortchanging kids if we give them the message, from such a young age, that certain books are not for them. If we only ever consumed stories about characters who were exactly like ourselves, the world would be a very boring place.
Gladys gets an “assignment” to find and review the world’s best hot dog. The results are hilarious! I have to know: Do you like hot dogs? And how many of the varieties presented in the books have you actually tasted? Any favorites?
I love hot dogs. Even when I was writing some of the grosser hot dog scenes in the book, I would find myself craving a hot dog!
Like Gladys’s friend Parm, I was a very picky eater growing up, but hot dogs were always a hit. Then, as an adult, when I backpacked around the world, I was surprised at how universal hot dogs were—they kept popping up in so many countries, with so many fantastic variations! Every international hot dog that Gladys eats in the book I have eaten as well; in fact, the ones I chose to have her cover for her review (Chilean completo Italiano, Icelandic pylsur, Thai battered and fried hot dog, New Mexican Sonoran, Nathan’s famous, and South African Gatsby) are all favorites of mine.
Aaaand now I want a hot dog.
Speaking of the scrumptious and often “exotic” food mentioned in THE STARS OF SUMMER, how do you research all of these delicious dishes Gladys reviews and makes? Do they spring from your own personal globetrotting experiences?
Yes, exactly. I wrote a lot of ALL FOUR STARS before I went world-traveling, so the foods in that book are based more on foods I tried as a teenager and young adult in New York City. But THE STARS OF SUMMER draws heavily on cuisines I sampled in my travels. I sometimes had to go back to my travel blog or do some sleuthing online to confirm my memories of certain dishes, but for the most part, not a lot of extra research was required.
I love the plot surprises and twists in your books. As a writer, I’m curious to know how much pre-plotting you do before you write. Did you find writing the sequel more challenging than writing the first book? Do you have any advice for writers working under tight deadlines?
For me, these two questions are related, so I’m going to answer them together. I found writing THE STARS OF SUMMER much easier than writing ALL FOUR STARS, and I think there are two main reasons why. Firstly, I spent so many years working on ALL FOUR STARS that, by the end, I knew my characters inside and out. That made it so much easier to stick them into a new situation in the sequel, because I already knew what their passions were and how they’d react to just about anything I threw at them. And secondly, I outlined THE STARS OF SUMMER very fastidiously before I started to write it (I explain my process in detail here: http://taradairman.com/2013/09/19/first-drafting-now-96-faster/). Of course, details always change in the execution, but knowing where all the major plot turns were in advance helped me feel confident as I drafted the book and get the work done quickly.
I’ve heard Book Three is in the works. Congratulations! What can you tell us about Gladys’s upcoming adventures? Do you know a release date yet?
Thank you—I’m excited that the series is continuing! Book Three should be out in Summer 2016. I don’t want to give too much away, but I can tell you that Gladys will be starting middle school, and will be getting an unexpected houseguest and an even more unexpected (or should I just say less expected?) job offer.
Oooh, unexpected houseguest AND a new job! Now I’m speculating…
Tara is graciously giving away a copy of THE STARS OF SUMMER to one very lucky commenter! We’d like to know your favorite hot dog toppings/flavor, or favorite foreign dish.
Tara Dairman is the author of ALL FOUR STARS, which was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month and a Mighty Girl Top Book of 2014 for Teens and Tweens. She is also a playwright and recovering world traveler. She grew up in New York and received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College. After surviving the world’s longest honeymoon (two years, seventy-four countries!), she now lives in Colorado with her husband and their trusty waffle iron.
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