Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream! Cottage Pie! Fishy Green Ale! (What ELSE I ate at Harry Potter World)

Given that my post about what I ate at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2014 is still one of my most popular, I figured I should follow it up now that I’ve just been back–and visited the newer section of Diagon Alley. There were many new treats to try, both of the delicious and the eyebrow-raising variety, and with the help of my trusty husband and our voracious kiddo, I sampled as many as I could.

(First, though, I should probably just point out that visiting Harry Potter World on a rainy, 40-degree midweek in winter and on a sweltering Friday at the peak of tourist season in July are two vastly different experiences. Still, despite the crowds and the sweat, we had a great time even at the height of summer.)

We began the day in Diagon Alley, and it is impressive. I’m sure you can find many photos online if you want to check it out, but I did have to share my capture of the dragon atop Gringotts breathing fire, as he does at regular intervals. (Fair warning, the fire is HOT if you’re standing under it, and my toddler screamed from the noise every time.)


It wasn’t long before we found ourselves peckish. Word to the wise, there is no line at Florean Fortescue’s ice cream parlor at 10am! Also note that they do not give samples. They have hard ice cream and soft, and my husband got apple crumble and strawberry-peanut butter hard ice cream. Both were delicious.20170714_101321
I opted for toffee apple soft serve, which is really just vanilla with toffee and green apple flavorings swirled in. It was fine, but the hard ice cream was better, and since you’re paying crazy park prices anyway, it seems worth the extra 50 cents.
All aboard the Hogwarts Express! Choo, choo!
Over in the Hogsmeade section of the park, I made my best culinary selection of the day: frozen butterbeer. You may remember that on my last (rainy, freezing) visit, I only tried the regular cold butterbeer and was less than impressed. Well, frozen is a hippogriff of a different color. SO much better–like a rich butterscotch slushee. Prices on all drinks have gone up quite a bit, but I’d say this was well worth the $7.50 (especially when waiting outside in the hot sun for a show to begin on the Hogsmeade stage).

On to lunch at The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. Luckily, I had remembered to reread my own reviews of the food from my previous visit, and knew that my favorite things on the menu were the potato dishes. So that’s what I ordered. This time, the seasoned wedge fries were far superior to the garlic roasted potatoes (though my kid gobbled up plenty of the roasted ones without complaint).

My husband, who had not been to The Three Broomsticks before, got the rotisserie smoked chicken platter ($13), which came with corn and potatoes. Not exactly the most British of lunches, but we’d have much better and more British-y meals later on at the Leaky Cauldron.20170714_122618
Drink options at both The Three Broomsticks and The Leaky Cauldron now include apple and pear ciders (nonalcoholic), so we tried a pear one. Cheaper than the “specialty” drinks ($3 and change) but…meh. We suggest you save your sickles (and sugar allotment) for butterbeer and ice cream.

Honeyduke’s in Hogsmeade is still where it’s at for candy, though they seem to have gotten rid of the amazing animatronic girl continuously puking Puking Pastilles who used to be in the window. (Probably because they now sell actual Puking Pastilles at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley, though I didn’t see her there, either.) They did have this nifty setup inside, though, showing house elves clipping black licorice strands from a man’s hair and beard. 20170714_164054

We would have loved to see the machine in action, but alas–sickles only.20170714_164057

Back in Diagon Alley, we admired the window dressings some more. Books!20170714_175016


Fishy Green Ale! Wait, what?

We popped into The Fountain of Fair Fortune to try this specialty drink, which you can only find in Diagon Alley. Thankfully, it is not fishy, nor an ale (it’s nonalcoholic), though it’s certainly green. Ostensibly mint and cinnamon flavored, we thought it tasted mostly like sugar and were not terribly impressed. That is, until we got a mouthful of the “fish eggs” that live at the bottom.

I had read online that these eggs were like blueberry-flavored tapioca pearls, so I was expecting something chewy, along the lines of the “bubbles” in bubble tea. But…no. Somehow, the wizards of Diagon Alley have created supersoft little balls that explode in your mouth with a burst of fizzy blueberry flavor! The texture must be experienced to be understood. We still don’t know what they could be made of, and have decided we don’t want to find out. The toddler LOVED them, too. (We generally kept her away from the sugary drinks, but we figured these were the closest things she was gonna get to fruit all day, so we let her eat them.)  I still say the green drink itself is pretty icky, but the fish egg experience probably made it worth the $5 to try.

At last, on to The Leaky Cauldron for dinner. Similar meal prices to The Three Broomsticks, but in my opinion, much better food. I got the cottage pie, which was filled with ground beef and vegetables with a potato top, and it was very good. (Then again, I guess all I’d eaten all day were potatoes and sugary drinks, so maybe I was just really hungry!) The salad was nice, too–not just iceberg, which is what you get at the other pub.20170714_183236

My husband got the bangers and mash, which we forgot to photograph until he was halfway through the meal. Oops! It was really good, too. Great flavor in the sausage, nice peas on the side, and a variety of roots in the veggie mix, including parsnip, which I don’t think we’d actually eaten since we were in Scotland a couple of years ago.20170714_183240


You may have noticed some drinks in the picture of my dinner. We wouldn’t have bothered, but we lucked into some meal coupons that included drinks, so I got a lemonade (ugh, too sweet and fake bright yellow), and against my counseling the husband tried pumpkin juice. I took a sip and it was just as I remembered, kind of like drinking a pumpkin spice Yankee Candle, but he managed to drink it down. He said it was worth the $0 we paid for it.

So, in summary, some of the food lived up to its price in goblin gold, and some of it didn’t quite. The atmosphere of the parks is as stunning as ever, though, the rides are fun, and the shows–particularly Beedle the Bard in Diagon Alley and the Triwizard Tournament in Hogsmeade–are really enjoyable to watch.

Next time, I’ll be heading straight back to The Leaky Cauldron, Florean Fortescue’s, and anywhere I can get some frozen butterbeer. Cheers!

Like this post? Then you’d probably love my middle-grade novels about tween restaurant critic Gladys Gatsby!



Events this week in Florida

all-three-coversHello, friends! I’m excited to be heading to the Orlando area this week to be on a panel at the ILA conference. And I’ve also got two book events set up that are free and open to the public. Especially after Skyping with so many Florida classrooms this year, I can’t wait to meet young readers in Orlando and DeLand in person.

You can find the details about all three appearances on my events page. But I’ll share the open-to-the-public events here as well:

Barnes & Noble Waterford Lakes – Orlando, FL
Saturday, July 15, 2pm*
Summer Book Bash! (with Christina Farley and Ammi-Joan Paquette)
Join us for our Summer Book Bash featuring an interactive, fun-filled afternoon with three amazing authors of books for young readers: Tara Dairman, Christina Farley, and Ammi-Joan Paquette. Activities, reading, Q&A and plenty of fun for young readers! Ideal for ages 9-15, open to the public. Proceeds benefit Orange County Library- Alafaya. Check out our Facebook event for more details!

*Note: The fun kicks off at 1pm with local broadcaster and children’s book author Amy Sweezey; the middle-grade panel with me, Ammi-Joan, and Christina will begin at 2.

DeLand Regional Library – DeLand, FL
Monday, July 17, 3-4:30pm
I’m so excited to present about my writing process for All Four Stars and my journey to becoming a published author, AND to lead a fun creative writing workshop for kids, tweens, and teens! There won’t be book sales, btu I’ll be happy to sign any books readers bring in from home. (Well, as long as I wrote them!)


Hope to see you!

School Library Journal loves THE GREAT HIBERNATION!

The Great HibernationI’m thrilled to share this fantastic review from School Library Journal for The Great Hibernation (coming your way September 12 – click title or cover image for preorder info). This is a book full of big ideas, and I’m so glad to see that the combination of humor, adventure, and politics is appealing to early readers.

Here’s the review! Emphases mine. 🙂

The Great Hibernation
DAIRMAN, Tara.. illus. by Rebecca Green. 272p. Random. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781524717858.
Gr 4-8 – In a small, insular Nordic town with seemingly harmless, quaint traditions, the children find themselves in a police state under a devious and manipulative kid mayor when all the adults suddenly and inexplicably fall into comas. Self-doubting and awkward Jean, 12, knows she must look for allies and uncover the truth. She and her small band of heroes are thwarted right and left, and readers will empathize with the characters as they encounter injustice. Dairman creates a sense of urgency and brings the work to a satisfying conclusion. The scenes are concise and well formed, grouped into chapters ending with a new question or realization that adds to the suspense. The trope of children without adult supervision or guidance leads to memorably humorous situations when the kids take on their parents’ jobs (e.g., the plow driver’s son who can’t see over the steering wheel), as do the antics of a pet sheep. A friendship between Jean and Isara, who is from Thailand and the only immigrant in this mostly white community, emphasizes the theme of friendship in spite of differences.
VERDICT Lighthearted enough to entice readers with the silly premise and whimsical illustrations sprinkled throughout, this middle grade book nonetheless explores some rather important political ideas about individuality and the need for a balance of powers in governance. A strong selection for most middle grade shelves.

–Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC


TLA conference this week!



Hello, friends. This week I’ll be journeying down to San Antonio to attend the Texas Library Association conference (aka TLA, or TXLA). It’s my first big conference, and I’m excited to meet librarians, attend panels full of fellow authors, and generally bask in literary wonderfulness for a few days.

If you’ll be attending and would like to catch me, here are my scheduled events:

Wednesday, April 19:
4:00-5:00PM / Room 007A – Speed Dating at the Texas Author and Illustrator Meet and Greet (CPE#3507: SBEC 1.0)
6:00-6:45PM / Signing at Overlooked Books Booth #1917
Thursday, April 20:
3:00-4:00PM / Signing at Overlooked Books Booth #1917

My published books (All Four Stars, etc.) will be available for purchase from Overlooked Books at the conference, and I’ll be giving out my beautiful new bookmarks for The Great Hibernation (coming 9/12/17) and showing off an ARC if you’d like a sneak peek. Hope to see you there!

Scholastic Fairs, new FAQ, & more!

Greetings, friends! I have a few updates that I’d love to share with you.

imgresIf you follow me on social media, then you might have noticed me celebrating an authorly milestone last week. All Four Stars has been picked  up by the Scholastic Book Fair! Gladys and her adventures will now be accessible to a whole new slew of elementary-school readers. I was a huuuge book fair fan in my own childhood, and it’s a great honor to have one of my books included now.

Also recently shared on social media: the cover for The Stars of Summer in Czech. I just love what Albatros and cover artist Eva Chupíková have done to bring Gladys (and her quest for NYC’s best hot dog) to life!

If you’ve been poking around my website, you’ve probably noticed a few changes. For one, The Great Hibernation is now featured on the Books page and the homepage, as well as in my new website header designed by the wonderful Kristin Rae.

Also, as of today I have a brand new FAQ section AND downloadable video on my About Me page, perfect for kids who are doing a book report on one of my books. (Yes, kids now regularly e-mail me asking for info they can include in their book reports. I pinch myself every time.)
And, speaking of changes, at the end of January my family moved 1,000 miles from Colorado down to Austin, Texas. While we were brokenhearted to leave friends, family, and the mountains behind, the Austin kidlit community has been so welcoming. And actually, it’s kinda pretty  here, too. 🙂



The Great HibernationThank you so much to everyone who helped me celebrate the cover reveal for The Great Hibernation, illustrated by Rebecca Green, and to everyone who entered my ARC giveawayThe randomly selected winner is…

**** Jennifer Doyle ****

Congrats, Jennifer, and happy reading!

The Great Hibernation will be available for preorder soon, and I’ll share links when this is possible. I’m also planning to hold launch events in Austin, New York, DC, and Colorado this fall, so keep an eye on my events page as the year progresses!

(Also, in case you missed it, Rebecca posted a sneak peek at an interior illustration from the book on her Instagram yesterday. I can’t wait until everyone gets to see all of her whimsical, wonderful work!)


Let’s not beat around the (thistleberry) bush. Here it is, the cover for my next middle-grade novel, The Great Hibernation, coming September 12 from Wendy Lamb Books/Random House! The illustrator is the incredible Rebecca Green.


Why yes, that is a sheep wearing snowshoes. And a boy in a 17th-century mariner’s costume. And a fjord, and an ice floe, and oh yeah, a bear photobombing everyone with a handful of thistleberries…

I promise, it’ll all make sense once you skate into the story–I’m only sad that nine more months need to pass before you can do so.

But wait! Maybe you don’t have to wait so long, because advance reader copies (ARCs) of the book have already been printed, and I am giving one away today! Yes, you could be the winner–and learn what that boy on the cover won his medal for before everyone else. 🙂

Leave a comment on this post to enter to win, and to earn more entries, please see the directions below.

Here’s the official summary of The Great Hibernation:

The most important tradition in tiny St. Polonius-on-the-Fjord is the annual Tasting of the Sacred Bear Liver. Each citizen over twelve must eat one bite of liver to prevent the recurrence of the Great Hibernation, when the town’s founders fell asleep for months.

This year is Jean Huddy’s first time to taste the liver. It doesn’t go well. A few hours later, all the adults fall asleep. And no one can wake them.

The kids are left to run things, and they’re having a blast. That is, until the town bullies take over the mayor’s office and the police force.

Jean suspects that this “hibernation” was actually engineered by someone in town. She starts to investigate, and inspires other kids to join her in a secret plan to save St. Polonius.

Courage, teamwork, and scientific smarts unlock a quirky mystery in this delightful and funny story.

ISBN 978-1-5247-1785-8 (trade)
ISBN 978-1-5247-1785-5 (library)
ISBN 978-1-5247-1787-2 (ebook)


And there are blurbs!

“Definitely will not induce drowsiness. Utterly original.” – Adam Rex, author of The True Meaning of Smekday and the Cold Cereal Saga

“Imagine Lord of the Flies as a comedy set in snowy terrain and you have The Great Hibernation: a hilarious, whip-smart page turner you don’t want to miss.”  – Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, New York Times bestselling author of Book Scavenger and The Unbreakable Code

“Should I say ‘Udderly original’? No—there are no cows in it, just a ram. Utterly original.” – Adam Rex again

(I am still freaking out about these blurbs. The True Meaning of Smekday and  Book Scavenger are two of my all-time favorite books. I am so grateful to Adam and Jennifer!)

Enter to win

ONE lucky reader will win an ARC of The Great Hibernation!

Leave a comment on this post to enter, and you can earn extra entries by signing up for my e-mail newsletter and/or tweeting about the giveaway.

Here’s a sample tweet you can use:

Cover reveal & #giveaway: Win an ARC of #TheGreatHibernation, @TaraDairman‘s Fall ’17 @randomhousekids comic gem! http://bit.ly/2iG8wlH

Let me know in your comment if you’ve signed up for the newsletter (either now or in the past) and/or tweeted so I can give you credit. This giveaway is open to domestic and international entries. I’ll announce a winner one week from today, on Wednesday, January 18.

And feel free to share this cover however you like. The Great Hibernation should be available for preorder very soon from all booksellers!