TITLE: Gladys Gatsby Takes the Cake
GENRE: Humorous Middle Grade
Gladys Gatsby has dreamed of becoming a restaurant critic for The New York Times—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’.
Gladys Gatsby stood at the counter, the spout of her father’s heavy blowtorch poised over the top of the first ceramic cup. Her finger hovered over the trigger button that was supposed to turn her plain little custards into crunchy, tasty treats. That's when she heard a car door slam outside.
Gladys froze for a second, but then she checked the clock. 5:16—still a good 44 minutes before her parents were due home from work, and they were never early. It’s probably just the neighbors, she told herself, and with that, she took a deep breath and pulled the trigger.
Several things happened at once. With a hiss, a blue flame several inches longer than Gladys had expected shot out of the blowtorch, passing clear over the far edge of the first custard. With a whoosh, the wind outside changed direction and began to blow in through the kitchen window, setting the gauzy blue and white curtains aflutter. And with a jingle and a grinding noise and finally a click, someone turned a key in the Gatsbys’ front door.
A moment later, she heard her parents’ footsteps in the hall.
“Gladdy!” her dad called. “We’ve got pizza!”
Fudge! Gladys thought. She tried to release the trigger on the blowtorch, but to her horror the spout kept shooting flame. She pumped on it desperately with her finger, but that only seemed to make the flame get bigger.
Their footsteps were getting louder.