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Now Book 2 is out, and dare I say it, I think it's even better--which is saying something! Gladys Gatsby, 12-year-old food critic for the New York Standard, is trying to keep her job a secret from her parents, as well as surviving her friend Charissa's summer camp. There is a great new character in the ensemble, Hamilton Herbertson, a middle grade novelist who is an actual middle schooler, and gloriously pompous to boot. There are some great, great scenes--Hamilton and Gladys struggling with their swim tests; Gladys eating her way through New York's hot dog stands, and subsequently vomiting on her nemesis Gilbert Gadfly's shoes; an award ceremony in which Hamilton thinks he's a shoo-in; and Gilbert Gadfly's delicious final comeuppance.
It's hard to get a grizzled old Middle Grade Mafioso to laugh. (Tears are a different story. I'm getting much more lachrymose in my old age, when I think of the vicissitudes of life.) But reading The Stars of Summer, I laughed a lot. Knowing, as I do, how much kids this age are into cooking shows, I'm betting that Tara has another hit on her hands.
Tara kindly answered my questions--and here they are:
1) Have you ever floundered about and failed a swimming test?
Absolutely. My parents made me take swimming lessons every summer at the community pool, and I was terrible at them. I remember failing and needing to repeat several levels. Also, the college I went to had a swimming test as a graduation requirement, which I took my freshman year--just one length of the pool, but I was so nervous. So I definitely had a lot of real-life swimming-test angst to draw on when writing those scenes in THE STARS OF SUMMER. Ironically, now, I really enjoy swimming!
2) Have you ever been to an awards ceremony? [If so, I presume not in a blazing red flamenco dress.]
I've never been to a fancy televised awards ceremony, but a good friend of mine went to the Emmys several times with her TV-writer boyfriend when we were in our 20s, so I'd heard all about the experience from her.
3) Have you ever eaten a Gatsby sandwich?
You know, the Gatsby is the one hot dog in the book that I actually haven't eaten myself. I've been to South Africa and remember seeing Gatsby stands all over Cape Town, but I never actually tried one. I kick myself for that now. I've had some other dishes that combine hot dogs and French fries, though, like this Bolivian dish (picture below) with sausage, fries, tomato, and hard-boiled egg. Delicious.
Tara is a great writer, a foodie, and a world traveler. You can find her on her website, on Twitter: @TaraDairman or on Facebook.
Congrats to Tara for all she's accomplished. And there will be a Book 3, coming in spring 2016. I can't wait!