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Dairy queen

by Murdock


Book Review     

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Publishers Weekly :

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Starred Review. Finally, a football book a girl can love. With wry, self-deprecating wit, D.J. Schwenk narrates this story of her 15th summer. With her older brothers at college on football scholarships, and her father nursing a bad hip, most of the grueling work necessary to keep a small dairy farm running has fallen on D.J.'s broad shoulders. She had to quit basketball halfway through the season, and neglecting her homework earned her an F in sophomore English. Now, in addition to mucking out the barn and bringing in the hay, a family friend who coaches the rival high school's football team, has asked D.J. to train his talented but lazy starting quarterback, Brian Nelson. Brian may have brains, money and looks, but he's going to learn the meaning of hard work from D.J. And he, in turn, will teach D.J. how to communicate. (The way D.J. internalizes his observation of her, "You're like a cow," provides an ironic thread throughout.) This is Romeo and Juliet in Wisconsin, with cows, but it's more comic than tragic. Teens will readily identify with D.J.'s struggle to articulate her feelings of anger, confusion and romance within a family where silent, stalwart self-reliance is valued above all else. Murdock takes no cheap shots—every character she creates is empathetic: the electively mute younger brother, Curtis, the jaded best friend, Amber, even cranky, cold Dad, who finds his place (in the kitchen) when injury sidelines him. With humor, sports action and intelligence abundant, this tale has something for everyone. Ages 12-up. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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School Library Journal :

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Gr 7-10–After her father is injured, 15-year-old D.J. Schwenk takes over the lion's share of work on her family's small Wisconsin dairy farm. Between milking cows, mucking out the barn, and mowing clover, this erstwhile jock takes on training Brian, the rival high school's quarterback. A monster crush and a tryout for her own school's football team ensue. D.J., a charming if slightly unreliable narrator, does a good deal of soul-searching while juggling her grinding work schedule, an uncommunicative family, and a best friend who turns out to be gay. Savvy readers will anticipate plot turns, but the fun is in seeing each twist through D.J.'s eyes as she struggles with whether she really is, as Brian puts it, like a cow headed unquestioningly down the cattle shoot of life. Wry narration and brisk sports scenes bolster the pacing, and D.J.'s tongue-tied nature and self-deprecating inner monologues contribute to the novel's many belly laughs. At the end, though, it is the protagonist's heart that will win readers over. Dairy Queen will appeal to girls who, like D.J., aren't “girly-girls” but just girls, learning to be comfortable in their own skins. The football angle may even hook some boys. Fans of Joan Bauer and Louise Rennison will flock to this sweet confection of a first novel, as enjoyable as any treat from the real DQ.–Amy Pickett, Ridley High School, Folsom, PA

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BookList :

From BookList, April 1, 2006, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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Gr. 6-9. D. J.'s family members don't talk much, especially about the fact that 15-year-old D. J. does all the heavy work on their Wisconsin dairy farm since her father broke his hip and her two older brothers left for college. Nor do they talk about why D. J.'s mom, a teacher, is so busy filling in for the middle-school principal that she's never home. And they never, ever discuss the reason why her brothers haven't called home for more than six months. So when D. J. decides to try out for the Red Bend football team, even though she's been secretly training (and falling for) Brian Nelson, the cute quarterback from Hawley, Red Bend's rival, she becomes the talk of the town. Suddenly, her family has quite a bit to say. This humorous, romantic romp excels at revealing a situation seldom explored in YA novels, and it will quickly find its place alongside equally well-written stories set in rural areas, such as Weaver's Full Service (2005), Richard Peck's The Teacher's Funeral (2004), and Kimberly Fusco's Tending to Grace (2004).
JenniferHubert.

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