This post includes language arts and interdisciplinary activities for All Four Stars, by Tara Dairman. It’s part of a series that shares language arts and interdisciplinary activities for selections from Duke TIP’s 4th-6th Grade Online Book Club, which you can re-purpose for your classroom.
Why All Four Stars?
- Plucky, persistent, passionate protagonist, eleven-year-old Gladys Gatsby
- Strong emphasis on social-emotional topics that include
- the importance of embracing and pursuing talents and interests;
- the implications of asynchronous development on friendships;
- accepting constructive feedback and task-persistence.
- Action, humor, and an unlikely scenario that cleverly exemplifies and explores asynchronous development
- Engaging, challenging interdisciplinary connections in chemistry; physics and engineering; computer science, and civics.
About the Book
While most kids her age spend their afternoons playing video games and hanging out with friends, sixth grader Gladys Gatsby hides away in her kitchen, studying cooking techniques, testing out new recipes, and training herself to be a gourmet chef. So far, she has made some pretty amazing dishes! Unfortunately, no one knows about her culinary accomplishments. Gladys’s parents don’t share her love of fine food, and when they do cook, Mr. and Mrs. Gatsby ignore recipe instructions and insist on cooking everything—from cookies to meatloaf—in the microwave. As a result, the Gatsby family lives on a steady diet of greasy, salty carryout food and unidentifiable, microwaved globs, and Gladys has resorted to keeping her activities in the kitchen (and the delicious leftovers hidden in the garage refrigerator!) top secret.
Gladys has always managed to get the kitchen cleaned up and aired out before her parents return home from work . . . until now. Due to an unfortunate mishap with some custard cups and her father’s blowtorch, Gladys is grounded from cooking for six months! To top it off, her parents are insisting that she make some friends and play like normal kids do. Gladys’s spirit sinks like a fallen soufflé. Will her parents ever understand her passion for cooking? Will her inner foodie survive? Will she actually find friends? You won’t believe what Gladys accomplishes once she learns to trust her sense of humor, creativity, and determination to lead her out of the kitchen, into the neighbors’ yard, and all the way to a food lover’s opportunity-of-a-lifetime in New York City!
About the Author
In 2009, Tara Dairman quit her job as a magazine editor in New York, got married, and embarked on a two-year long honeymoon around the world with her new husband. They backpacked through forty-seven countries and five continents! Dairman earned a BA in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and had already written several successful plays for adults, but during her world travels, she finally found the time to finish drafting the story she had been working on for years. This draft later turned into her first novel for young readers: All Four Stars! Since returning to the United States, Dairman has settled with her husband in Colorado and written two more books in the Stars series, along with a new, stand-alone novel, The Great Hibernation, that was just released in late 2017. She also enjoys tutoring homeschool students and visiting schools, libraries, and bookstores around the country to meet her young readers. To learn more about Dairman and her inspiration for All Four Stars, visit her personal Web site.
Have you taught All Four Stars or other books by Tara Dairman?
Sample Reading Journal Prompts and Discussion Questions
- Even though you have read only the first few chapters, you have probably already noticed that All Four Stars author Tara Dairman has a real gift for food-related word play. For example, the title of Chapter 2 is “Gladys Gets Grilled.” In this chapter, Gladys’s parents press her with heated questions just like police investigators would “grill” a suspect—or a cook would press a hamburger patty on a hot barbeque “grill.” This is a play on words. Get it? Can you catch all of the unusual and funny ways Dairman has subtly referenced food, cooking, and popular recipes in the chapter titles, descriptions of characters, and Gladys’s thoughts throughout the book? Keep a running list in your journal.
- After she gets grounded from cooking for six months, Gladys wonders what she will do with her free time. Her parents want her to make some friends and do “normal activities for a kid [her] age” like playing “[v]ideo games” and “[h]anging out at the mall” instead of sitting around reading cookbooks and watching cooking videos in the afternoons (13, 50). Mr. and Mrs. Gatsby post a list of “APPROVED ACTIVITIES” on the refrigerator as a reminder (50). Does Gladys’s reaction to her parents’ new rules surprise you in any way? What do you think of this idea that there are “normal” activities Gladys should be engaged in, rather than the hobbies that make her happy? Have you ever felt pulled between wanting to “fit in” with what everyone else is doing and wanting to be on your own, to pursue your own interests? What was that like?
- Gladys “had plenty of friends when she was younger,” but “last year, in fifth grade, everything had changed” (26). How have Gladys and her classmates changed in such a short time? What do the other kids at school like to talk about and do for fun? Why do you think it has become so difficult for Gladys to make meaningful connections with people her own age? Have you ever had that problem?
- A couple of days after Gladys submits the first draft of her essay contest entry, Ms. Quincy asks her to stay after class. Gladys is shocked to see her essay, entitled “My Future as a Veterinarian,” lying on Ms. Quincy’s desk “covered with red ink” (65). To Ms. Quincy, this is a compliment! She tells Gladys, “Now, don’t be put off by all the red marks. . . . Your writing has a lot of potential. With a little help, I think that you could have an excellent chance of winning the New York Standard contest” (66). Gladys isn’t so sure. Have you ever had difficulty accepting suggestions for your projects or essays? What was that experience like for you? Even though our teachers’ and parents’ advice is well intentioned, what makes it sting so much?
Interdisciplinary Topics to Explore
- Cooking Convenience and the Microwave Oven: Just “Nuke” It – with activities on the physics of microwaves and other electromagnetic waves, and how they’re used – from cooking to weather forecasting to radar technology.
- Cooking Up Some Chemistry in the Kitchen – with activities exploring the effects of temperature, the pH of ingredients, and crystal formation on texture, taste, and appearance of baked goods.
- Coding, Coding Everywhere – with activities on the history of computer science, programming languages, computer science pioneers, including Ada Lovelace, and careers in the computer science field.
- Our Social Security System – with activities on the history and purpose of the the Social Security system, how the system works, proposed changes to the system, and the history of other social programs from the New Deal.