Child’s Play Review: Stars So Sweet by Tara Dairman

Child’s Play is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I review picture books, chapter books, and middle grade books for the young and the young at heart.

Title Stars So Sweet
Author Tara Dairman
Published July 19th, 2016 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Pages 288 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Part of a Series? Yes (Book 3 in the All Four Stars series)
Source & Format Received an advance reader copy from the publisher for review (Thanks, Penguin Young Readers!), Paperback
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Summer is winding down, and Gladys Gatsby’s stomach is full of butterflies about starting middle school. But her concerns go beyond juggling schoolwork and losing touch with old friends; she also has to worry about looming deadlines from her undercover job as the New York Standard’s youngest restaurant critic.

When her editor pushes for a face-to-face meeting, Gladys knows she must finally come clean to the grown-ups in her life about her job. Her perfectly planned reveal is put on hold, though, when her parents arrive home with a surprise: Gladys’s aunt Lydia — one of the only adults who knows her secret — fresh off a plane from Paris. Gladys and Aunt Lydia try one last ruse to fool her editor at the Standard, but for how long will Gladys be able to balance the drama of middle school with her secret life?

This third book in the delicious All Four Stars series sees Gladys facing her biggest challenge yet: being true to herself and honest with her friends and family, regardless of what those around her think.

She was trying to help her friends see the bright side – but at the same time, the pit of worry that had entered her stomach in the schoolyard now felt like it was sprouting into a full-grown tree of anxiety. Two classes with Charissa and none with Parm left a whole lot of classes with zero friends. Her parents would surely advise her to make new ones, but Gladys would rather tackle a hundred difficult new recipes than force herself to talk to one new person.

Goodbye, East Dumpsford Elementary. Hello, Dumpsford Township Middle School! As summer comes to a close and culinary wunderkind Gladys Gatsby prepares for the first day of seventh grade, a new school will soon be the least of her worries as Gladys contends with new clubs, new commitments, new friends (and enemies), new rules and new beginnings. With her plate increasingly full and her status as the New York Standard‘s preeminent restaurant critic still a carefully-guarded secret, Gladys will have to work harder than ever before as she faces her most difficult challenges yet.

…She couldn’t help but think back to the way her classmates (mostly girls) used to make fun of her love of arugula. And that was just a salad green! Now Sandy actually wanted to have a reputation at his school for eating gross foods?
Boys were weird.

Reading Tara Dairman’s Stars So Sweet, the third and final instalment in the author’s throughly enchanting All Four Stars middle grade series, was an incredibly bittersweet experience. For the last three years, a new release from Dairman has been one of the highlights of my summer, and while I was eager to embark on another adventure with Gladys Gatsby, I couldn’t help but grow sad that this novel would mark our final journey together. That said, as things heat up in and out of the kitchen, I can think of no better way to bid adieu to this scrumptious series than Stars So Sweet, a tasty morsel that’s good to the last bite and proves to be the author’s sweetest book yet.

Gladys sighed. It was great to have her talents appreciated, especially since it was a feeling she didn’t always get at home. But it didn’t feel so great to know Fiona’s admiration was still based on a big deception. If Fiona knew how truly unique Gladys’ voice was, would she still be so interested in having her at the paper full-time?

Over-committed and under a great deal of pressure, the stakes have never been higher for Gladys Gatsby as she is forced to juggle academic, personal and professional considerations. Faced with the prospect of a new assignment and a potential promotion, Gladys’ unintentional deception and secret double life culminate in a taut, exciting adventure that will leave readers on the edge of their seat until the very last page. What will happen when Gladys tells her editor – and her parents! – the truth? Will her dreams be over before they ever truly begun? Only time will tell as Gladys is forced to use every ounce of her courage, creativity and tenacity to determine what the future holds. It is not what challenges Gladys faces, however, but how she faces them that truly define her. Even when she feels as though “a live fish was flopping around in her stomach” or “like a single chocolate chip drowning in a huge bowl of cookie batter”, Gladys never fails to meet each and every challenge head-on with careful, measured judgement and a little extra help and advice from her friends.

“Seeing your goals is the first step. But reaching them often requires taking many more.” She approached Gladys’ desk again. “The good news is that you don’t need to see the entire path clearly to set out on it; you just need to see a few feet ahead of you.”

Stars So Sweet also sees the return of some of the series’ most familiar and beloved secondary characters including Parm Singh, Sandy Anderson, Charissa Bentley, Fiona Inglethorpe, and everyone’s favourite literary prodigy and author of the best-selling novel, Zombietown, U.S.A., Hamilton Herbertson. One of the things readers can appreciate most about Dairman’s supporting cast is that each feels like the main character in their own right, with feelings, aspirations and desires independent of that of the protagonist. In Stars So Sweet, Sandy’s busy working on cementing his legacy as the Gross-Out King and “The Boy Who’ll Eat Anything” at St. Joseph’s Academy, Parm is struggling to raise enough money to allow the girls’ soccer team to attend the regional tournament in Pennsylvania, Charissa is attempting to balance one too many extracurricular activities and Hamilton is trying his best to live a more normal life. Perhaps best of all, much to my surprise and delight Stars So Sweet also includes LGBTQ content as Dairman explores how one of the secondary characters has a crush on another character of the same sex. This revelation is handled with a great deal of thought and sensitivity, and creates a wonderful opportunity for young readers to speak with their parents about the importance of inclusivity, diversity and the beauty of love in any form.

She had spent the afternoon at Rolanda’s house working on the mask cookies with the Drama Club. Several of the other members actually had baking experience, which should have made the undertaking go more smoothly – and it did for a while, until everyone started belting out show tunes from Phantom Of The Opera. Gladys left the house with both a splitting headache and an intense desire to send the chandelier in Rolanda’s dining room crashing down on every screeching, warbling Andrew Lloyd Webber fan there.

Over the course of the All Four Stars trilogy, Tara Dairman has fostered a greater awareness of and appreciation for the role food plays in our lives, encouraging young readers to be unafraid to expand their palate and be more adventuresome in their culinary choices. From exploring the intricacies of Salvadoran, Cuban and Peruvian cuisine to unusual dried meat delicacies like emu, camel, yak, kangaroo and alligator, Stars So Sweet continues this tradition, managing to both entertain and educate as Gladys is exposed to a wide variety of foodstuffs from around the world. As was the case with the previous instalments in the series, however, readers should be warned against devouring Stars So Sweet on an empty stomach as from grilled swordfish dressed with tomato and saffron coulis to rosewater flan, the author’s descriptions of the delectable dishes Gladys encounters on her adventures are as vivid and as mouthwatering as ever. Sparkling dialogue, clever chapter titles (“Lobster Lockdown”, “In Hot Water”, “Pie In The Sky”, “A Sour Note”) and creative twists on ubiquitous icons like Hell’s Kitchen and Shakespeare’s Macbeth ensure that the overall narrative voice is as charming, effervescent and fun as ever. Most importantly, Dairman never condescends to her audience, instead trusting them to pick up on the subtleties of the text, particularly the valuable lessons about honestly, responsibility and diversity Stars So Sweet so delicately touches upon.

She steeled herself. She could ace this test. She would ace this test. She would prove her identity – and, at the same time, prove to her doubting editor that kids could appreciate more than just chicken fingers and ketchup.

What can I possibly say about this wonderful, wondrous series that I haven’t said already? Stars So Sweet and its predecessors deserve all four stars and then some as Tara Dairman proves once and for all that there is no age limit on a truly exceptional story. Whether you’re young or young at heart, readers of all ages will be able to delight in the hijinks and hilarity of the adventures of Gladys Gatsby as she takes on everything from bake sales and middle school dances to journalistic integrity and entrepreneurial enterprises. In Gladys, accomplished middle grade author Tara Dairman has crafted a character as timeless, as delightful, and as loveable as any created for this (or any other) age group, and one that can stand proudly shoulder-to-shoulder with the Harriet M. Welschs and Sara Crewes of the world. Three cheers for Gladys Gatsby!

Please Note: All quotations included in this review have been taken from an advance reader copy and therefore might be subject to change.

Still not sure this is the right book for you? Here’s what some other reviewers had to say about it!

● Lucy @ The Reading Date wrote “The final course of this delicious trilogy brings Gladys’ story to a satisfying conclusion.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Karen @ For What It’s Worth wrote “I’m so sad to see her go but also happy she went out on a high note. The perfect end to the perfect series!” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Aeicha @ Word Spelunking wrote “Stars So Sweet is a fun, heartfelt, and delightful addition to a wonderful series young readers will just gobble up!” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

Don’t forget to visit all the wonderful stops along Stars So Sweet blog tour for a variety of reviews, recipes, and much, much more!

July 7 Dahlia @ The Daily Dahlia
July 8 Lucy @ The Reading Date
July 11 Michael @ Middle Grade Mafioso
July 12 – Katie @ Bookish Illuminations
July 13 – Brenda @ Log Cabin Library
July 14 – Aeicha @ Word Spelunking
July 15 – Karen @ For What It’s Worth
July 18 – Sylvia @ A Baked Creation
July 21 – Lisa @ Fic Talk
July 22 Jen @ Pop! Goes the Reader (You are here – Hi!)
July 25 Stephanie @ Kitchen Frolic
July 26 Jenn @ Creative Spaces

The Writing’s On The Wall: The Unabridged Journals Of Sylvia Plath

The Writing’s On The Wall is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I create desktop wallpapers inspired by some of my favourite novels, authors, and literary quotes.

Title The Unabridged Journals Of Sylvia Plath
Author Sylvia Plath, Karen V. Kukil (Editor)
Pages 732 Pages
Target Audience & Genre Adult, Non-Fiction, Memoir, Poetry
Published October 17th, 2000 by Anchor
Find It On Goodreads

A major literary event – the complete, uncensored journals of Sylvia Plath, published in their entirety for the first time.

Sylvia Plath’s journals were originally published in 1982 in a heavily abridged version authorized by Plath’s husband, Ted Hughes. This new edition is an exact and complete transcription of the diaries Plath kept during the last twelve years of her life. Sixty percent of the book is material that has never before been made public, more fully revealing the intensity of the poet’s personal and literary struggles, and providing fresh insight into both her frequent desperation and the bravery with which she faced down her demons. The complete Journals of Sylvia Plath is essential reading for all who have been moved and fascinated by Plath’s life and work.

1280×800 » 1440×900 » 1680×1050 » 1920×1200 » 2560×1400 » iPhone 5 » iPhone 6 » iPad

I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Latino Type and Flower Travelin’ Man whose clipart and/or fonts I purchased, edited and used in the creation of this wallpaper!

Like today’s design and want to use it on more than just your desktop? You can now purchase this and other original Pop! Goes The Reader designs in my Society 6 shop, Pop! Goes The Print Shop, available in a variety of formats including prints, tote bags, mugs, pillows and much, much more.

Now it’s your turn! What book(s) would you like to see made into a desktop wallpaper next? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!

Top Ten Internationally-Set Novels I Want To Read (And Five I Enjoyed)

Top Ten Tuesday is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I count down my top ten choices on a particular theme. This weekly event is hosted by Jamie at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is: Top Ten Internationally-Set Novels I Want To Read (And Five I Enjoyed).

Putting together today’s Top Ten Tuesday post was a rather eye-opening (and shameful) experience for me. While I always strive to read diversely, embracing the opportunity to meet characters from a variety of different backgrounds, cultures and experiences, I was shocked to learn that the majority of the books I read are still limited to the confines of the U.S. This is something I would very much like to correct in the future, and I had a lot of fun exploring Goodreads and choosing ten internationally-set books that immediately grabbed my attention. At the conclusion of this post, I have also included five books set outside of the United States that I have read and would happily recommend. Enjoy!

As always, these choices are listed in no particular order.

1) Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (Porto Vergogna, Italy)

2) The Vacationers by Emma Straub (Mallorca, Spain)

3) Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard (Central America)

4) If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (Iran)

5) Romancing The Dark In The City Of Light by Ann Jacobus (Paris, France)

6) Wanderlost by Jen Malone (Europe)

7) Paris Is Always A Good Idea by Nicolas Barreau (Paris, France)

8) Stolen: A Letter To My Captor by Lucy Christopher (Rural Australia)

9) Small Damages by Beth Kephart (Seville, Spain)

10) A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable (Paris, France)

Bonus! While my experience with novels set outside of the U.S. is woefully limited, here are five internationally-set books I have read and would happily recommend.

1) Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (Pakistan) Read my review here!

2) For Real by Alison Cherry (Indonesia, India, Greece, etc.) Read my review here!

3) Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae (Italy) Read my review here!

4) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (Prince Edward Island, Canada)

5) Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (Lithuania and Siberia)

Now it’s your turn! Are there any books set outside of the U.S. that you’ve read you think I should read immediately (or avoid)? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!

Do! Judge A Book By Its Cover Issue 64: Middle Grade (Part 13)

Do! Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I pay tribute to some of the best and brightest the publishing world has to offer in the way of book cover design. This feature is inspired by Katie’s feature Cover Love on her blog One Page At A Time. The idea is being used with her gracious permission.

Hi everyone! I’m back! As much fun as Her Story was to coordinate and share, I’m so excited to return to Pop! Goes The Reader’s regularly scheduled posts and even more thrilled to have the chance to once again talk about one of my favourite facets of literature: Middle grade fiction! Some of my favourite covers this week include Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson, Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young, Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge by Kristin L. Gray, Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King, Willows vs. Wolverines by Alison Cherry, The Wolf Keepers by Elise Broach, Things Too Huge To Fix By Saying Sorry by Susan Vaught, Graveyard Slot by Michelle Schusterman, The Sweetest Sound by Sherri Winston, Sword In The Stacks by Jen Swann Downey and Journey’s End by Rachel Hawkins.

Please note: I’ve done my best to credit the illustrators responsible for the beautiful covers below, but was unable to find this information for a great number of those listed. If you know of an uncredited illustrator for any of these book covers, please let me know and I would be happy to include their names in this post. Their work is lovely and deserved to be celebrated.

Simon Thorn and The Viper’s Pit by Aimee Carter ● Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson ● Hear The Wolves by Victoria Scott

Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young ● Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge by Kristin L. Gray (Cover illustrated by Emma Trithart) ● AbrakaPOW by Isaiah Campbell (Cover illustrated by Dave Perillo)

The Mighty Dynamo by Kieran Mark Crowley ● Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King ● Beware! Shadows In The Night by Lin Oliver (Cover illustrated by Samantha Kallis)

Willows vs. Wolverines by Alison Cherry (Cover illustrated by Angela Li) ● The Doorway And The Deep by K.E. Ormsbee (Cover illustrated by Erwin Madrid) ● The Wolf Keepers by Elise Broach (Cover illustrated by Alice Ratterree)

Things Too Huge To Fix By Saying Sorry by Susan Vaught ● The Princess And The Page by Christina Farley ● Graveyard Slot by Michelle Schusterman

Disenchanted: The Trials Of Cinderella by Megan Morrison ● The Sweetest Sound by Sherri Winston ● Unbound by Ann E. Burg

Sword In The Stacks by Jen Swann Downey ● Journey’s End by Rachel Hawkins ● Get Smart-ish by Gitty Daneshvari

Now it’s your turn! What are some of your favourite middle grade covers? Did I list one of your favourites here or is there one I forgot that just has to be included? Let me know in the comments!

Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2016 – The End (For Now)

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as thirty-nine authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

Well, another year of Her Story: Ladies In Literature has come to an end and once again I sit here at a loss for words, with eyes full of tears and a heart full of love. It’s no secret that Her Story means a great deal to me, and with thirty-seven participants and nearly 13,000 views over the course of this year’s series, it reached an audience far greater than I ever could have imagined possible. More important than mere statistics, however, is what this number represents. In a world increasingly defined by uncertainty, turmoil, ignorance and suffering, it’s comforting to know that literature remains one of the great unifiers and allows us to feel a little less alone. The book blogging community is just that – a community – and never was this more apparent to me than by how warmly readers of all ages and backgrounds embraced and welcomed these essays into their lives. Please know that I read and treasured every comment, every tweet, and every email sent to me over the last month and I’m sure every author who participated was equally touched. Having readers and authors alike be inspired to share their stories, confess their insecurities, and confide in me about the heroines that have touched their lives is a more valuable gift than I could ever have asked for, and I’m so very grateful.

To Anna-Marie, Linda, Maurene, Kathryn, Laurie, Tanaz, Sarah, Roshani, Janet, Abby, Jenn, Bridget, Paula, Lily, Alexandra, Sharon, Ashley, Christina, Susan, Whitney, Lindsay, Sarah, Melissa, Lauren, Harriet, Jennifer, Brittany, Heidi, Sandhya, Kathleen, Jonah Lisa, Tehlor, Julia, Kathleen, Destiny, Karen and Katherine: Thank you. I am inspired by your creativity, thankful for your voices, and humbled by your participation and support. Absolutely none of this would have been possible without you and I will never be able to express the depth of my gratitude for all you’ve done. I strongly encourage readers to pick up the work of these thirty-seven brilliant women. After all, you never know where you just might find your heroine. I would also like to extend a special ‘thank you’ to Dahlia Adler and Wendy McLeod MacKnight who have been tireless supporters of Her Story and have helped to share posts at every available opportunity. You are the brightest and sparkliest of stars and I hope I’m one day worthy of the tremendous amount of support, kindness and friendship each and every one of these women have shown me.

Missed an opportunity to read any (or all) of the Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2016 essays this year? No problem! Below, please find a list of all thirty-seven posts to explore at your leisure. Happy reading!

“This is the debt I owe Lux Lisbon and Tita de la Garza and the sisters they let me borrow: they taught me what my mother had wanted me to know all along, that I was a girl worth watching.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“Thanks to Louretta Hawkins — the “Lou” in The Soul Brothers and Sister Lou — the little girl fell in love with books and became a lifelong reader. She eventually became a writer, too. But that’s another story for another day.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“In ten years, I want readers to have memories of way more Asian American characters than just her. There are so many different stories to tell.

But Claudia Kishi? She’ll always be the coolest.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“I love that she gets to continue to be who she is (awkward and shy and prickly) and to love what she loves (Simon Snow) even as her world opens up. She gets her happy ending.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“I want to create characters like Scarlett, girls who are flawed and real and a mess of emotions. Girls who sometimes shove the messes they make under the rug and proclaim that tomorrow is another day. Girls who don’t always get a neat, tidy, happy ending.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“Jane Eyre taught me that strength can sometimes simply mean accepting your weaknesses. That sometimes, your hardships are nothing more than stepping stones to something greater than you ever could have imagined.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“In the journey to being a debut author, I was asked constantly who I was as a writer and what story I was telling. I kept doubling down on myself and my stories in the world’s scariest gamble, and it was due, in part, to the confidence I gained from Ree Dolly’s existence in literature.

Other books built my voice, but Ree gave it sound.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“Of all the princesses I grew up reading about, she never had a traditionally happy ending. There is no love for her. No joyous Bollywood-esque wedding. And yet she still had victory. Her one consuming goal in life came true because she broke against what was expected and she carved her own path. What she did was frightening and scary, but it was brave too. The male world had failed her, so she saved herself.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“Maybe Cassandra is a girl out of time, like I was. In any case, she taught me that you can figure out who you are by writing it all down, and it’s no coincidence that my own book is about a girl who does the same thing.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“I’ve learned in many contexts throughout life that she had her priorities straight: you can do big things tomorrow, but not unless you survive today.

So go ahead, all those who are oppressed, enslaved, endangered: speak fiction to power. Particularly when it’s holding a gun (or a scimitar).”

Read the rest of the post here!

“There is still a nagging voice in the back of my head that whispers about how life would be less scary if I just went back to a day job, cut back on this whole silly writing thing, became more social, got married, acted more like a “normal human.” But then I think of Luna Lovegood, and I remember that the world needs oddities, that the people I’m meant to be with will love me for who I am, and that it’s better to have a few real friends and remain true to myself than to adhere to society’s expectations just so I can feel “popular” or “normal” or “safe”.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“Meg March helped me shut down those doubts. She wasn’t a failure for having chosen a quieter path. No one accused her of squandering herself and her talents. Despite her own comparisons to wealthy friends and wrestling with her vanity and pride, Meg chose the quiet life not because it was easy but because she was fulfilled in doing so.

I love the Jos and Amys and Beths in my life. I relish their stories, their adventures, and their dreams.

But I’m proud to be a Meg.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“I knew that I wanted to be a woman who took charge of all her beginnings and endings.

I’d never be the wife of a missionary; I’d never allow a partner to make my decisions for me. But like Orleanna Price, I would search for my agency and voice, and her story made me realize that choosing a women’s college, as unique or commonplace a decision it may seem, had been my first real step in the direction.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“Junie B. Jones gave my children a love of reading, and an appreciation of strong, girl characters. She played an important role in my own path toward writing, in learning how to create flawed but likable characters, and in realizing that you’re never too old to read for ANY book.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“Tabitha will always be one of my favorite characters. She reminds me that being me is okay. That being “unlikeable” doesn’t mean I’m an inherently terrible person, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences to my mistakes, and it doesn’t mean that I’m forever defined by my mistakes, that I can’t work through them and try to make them as right as possible.

It simply means that I am a fully-formed person, blood beneath in my veins, air in my lungs.

I am a girl, beautiful and flawed and real.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“In a world where extroverts often get the last word in, Emily was my first example of how there can be power and strength in quiet. There are moments when I need to call on my inner–Anne for sure, but most of them time, I’m thrilled to be an Emily.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“Meg saves Charles Wallace in the end because she is stubborn, and rude, and won’t give in, but mostly because she loves so strongly. And 10-year-old me knew, without a doubt, that I would’ve been able to do that too. Even though I was ugly and disliked and uncertain, if the three Mrs. W’s had called on me, I could’ve won. Because I was stubborn and smart and loved strongly, just like Meg.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“Comics, Ghost World in particular, drew me back into the world of books. But now I wanted to make my own art and tell my own stories, with the hope that I can be lucky enough to give someone else their very own Enid.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“To nurture a strong woman means to foster a strong child. To encourage a daughter to speak up, you let her talk back. To encourage a daughter to ask why, you teach her to ask tough, embarrassing questions. To encourage a daughter to pick apart the rules and systems that she is asked to abide by, you teach her to unravel authority — even your authority — even if it means being labeled disrespectful, or misbehaved, or (gasp!) annoying. To encourage a daughter to let her imagination run wild, you let her tell lies.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“Reliving Sabriel’s journey, watching her take control no matter what horror was thrust upon her, reminded me that any darkness can be overcome at a time when I needed to hear that message most. “

Read the rest of the post here!

“For Mia, living will mean having to face feeling hollow. Snow will remind her of the car accident when it’s billowing from the sky like thick pixie dust. The smoke of pipe tobacco will remind her that her father is never coming back.

Life has no guarantees, which makes choosing so hard.

Life or death.

Funny how so many choices can feel that way, even when they’re not.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“Like my girl, I’m going to work hard, even when the Harrys and Rons of the world tell me that one person’s efforts don’t matter — and that no one person can change the system.

Like Hermione, I won’t give up. We are Gryffindors, hear us roar!”

Read the rest of the post here!

“…An extraordinary girl, Lennon “Lennie” Walker, saved me – with love, with joy, with a belief in the world still being dazzling after pain, a raw-honest-wide-open heart and optimism about love. She saved me with lasagnes and music and pot plants and hilarity. (And, yeah, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.) Made me feel like maybe, I could fly.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“Rose resented the burden of taking care of her parents. She was bitter about the poverty she suffered as a child, and blamed her poor teeth on lack of proper nutrition when she was little. But she took her duty seriously, and that’s why she encouraged Laura to write up a juvenile fiction story based on her childhood. Rose saw book publishing as an easy way to make money, and hoped that if Laura was successful then the Wilder’s financial problems would be solved.

The rest, as they say, is history.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“What By The Sword taught me was that, despite what the world wants from you or the way the world reacts, you can make your own decisions. You don’t have to say yes to the prince. You can have casual sex and still be a good person. You can save the day and still be vilified for it. You can only do the things that are right for you, that make sense for you, and damn the world’s opinion. You can be your messy, willful self no matter what anyone else thinks.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“As one pest to another, I felt certain that even if no one else could Ramona would understand, and that made all the difference. Our young lives weren’t fair, but we would come out on top in the end.

And you know what? We did.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“One of the things I’ve learned about life as I’ve gotten older? There is no such thing as failure. I was so afraid of getting things wrong as a teen, but the best thing about life is that it’s all about getting things wrong, learning how to make them right, and having fun in the process.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“I should say here that one of the reasons I loved Zan was that she was so, well, kind of, sometimes, well…okay: mean. She’s bossy, she’s not nice to girls who prefer to dance, or to cheerlead. For Zan, sport is everything, and she sees no reason why the girls can’t have what the boys have. And if it isn’t given to her, she’ll take it.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“Elizabeth Bennett — careless, insouciant, bordering on rude — gives voice to her inner thoughts. She says what she thinks, and in giving expression to her thoughts and feelings she gave me permission to do the same, telling me it’s okay to have strong opinions and to express them. What you say might ultimately be a mistake but speak your mind anyway. It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“I have love in my life. I’m still “big for my age”…whatever that means…but it matters less, because I’m strong, beautiful and loved too. My own journey has been a lot like Kel’s, but we both came out the other side.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“It helped take my mind off of some of my pain and I spent time with my daughter who had missed me so much while I was away. Telling the story to my daughter reminded me of the joy of using one’s imagination.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“Here’s what I learned as I followed Ella’s story (again and again and again until finally I convinced my mom to buy me two copies of the book — one to look pretty on the shelf and one to read until it fell apart). I didn’t want to live in perpetual fear of Trouble. I wanted to try new things. I wanted to say what I was thinking. I didn’t want to be perfect; I wanted to be free.”

Read the rest of the post here!

“Mrs. Frisby is a mouse among rats, but she’s also a woman among men.

Ultimately, that’s what makes her so remarkable: that time and again, she enters spaces in which she isn’t welcome or invited, demanding to be heard. Through will and courage, she succeeds. In fact, as the story progresses, Mrs. Frisby becomes not just a friend to the rats, but an ally. In the end, the rats and the Frisbys end up saving each other.”

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“I wanted to be like Aly. I wanted to be both feminine and masculine, androgynous in ways that I didn’t think my world would allow, defiant and surprising for those who underestimated me, and competitive with only myself.”

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