From the Publisher
"Finally, a football book a girl can love. . . . With humor, sports action and intelligence abundant, this tale has something for everyone." —Publishers Weekly, starred
"A fresh teen voice, great football action and cows--this novel rocks." —Kirkus Reviews, starred
"This extremely likable narrator invites readers into her confidence and then rewards them with an engrossing tale of love, family, and football." —Horn Book
"In her debut novel, Murdock skillfully captures the messiness that comes with learning to open up to others and deal with life and love." —Columbus Dispatch
Our booksellers are raving about Dairy Queen, Catherine Gilbert Murdock's terrific debut novel for teens. This wryly written story features the unforgettable D. J. Schwenk, a football-loving 15-year-old who takes over the chores on her family's small Wisconsin dairy farm when her dad is sidelined by an injury. Like the rest of the tongue-tied Schwenks, D.J. is not much of a talker. Then she meets Brian, a snooty quarterback assigned to her for football training, and she finally learns to speak her mind. Murdock gives D.J. a pitch-perfect teenage voice: self-effacing and endearingly confused. With its unusual setting and a story line both hilarious and touching, Dairy Queen is as promising a YA debut as any we've seen.
If you ask 15-year-old tomboy D.J. Schwenk, summer is off to a lousy start. But, since she's not real big on talking and neither is anyone in her family no one's likely to hear or understand her complaints. D.J. is saddled with all the chores at the Schwenk dairy farm while her father recuperates from an injury, her mother takes on extra work at the local school and her older, football-legend brothers stay away from home due to a family rift. Then Brian Nelson, the conceited quarterback from D.J.'s rival high school, is assigned by his coach (and Schwenk family friend) to help out on the farm. Sparks of all kinds, and cow pies, fly as D.J. and Brian eventually bond over work and football, and D.J. tries out for her own school's varsity team. Moore does an excellent job of mastering a natural, Midwestern accent that whisks listeners right to Wisconsin. She's wholly believable as a teenager struggling with attitudes about first love, friendship, gender and sexuality, self-confidence and sports. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
She has grown up on a dairy farm, but fifteen-year-old D.J. is no ordinary milkmaid. She has played pick-up games and caught balls for her college-football-hero brothers all her life, and now with an injury sidelining her father, she is doing almost all the farm work. The dairy is the family's top priority, but it is taking a toll on D.J. She has little social life, less study time (she is flunking English), and no expectations of a brighter future. She is uncomplaining and unaware of her frustrations until Brian, the talented but out-of-condition quarterback for her high school's archrival, compares her to a cow. "You do all the work . . . It's like you're a cow . . . one day . . . they're going to . . . take you away to die and you're not even going to mind." Furious with unflinching honesty, D.J. takes the point and in contentious-but increasingly respectful-dialogue, both teens embark on a journey of self discovery during which D.J. becomes Brian's football trainer and realizes that she wants to play herself. D.J.'s voice is funny, frank, and intelligent, and her story is not easily pigeonholed. Readers will learn a lot about sports and farming but more about taking charge of oneself. The cover, featuring a crowned cow, will turn some readers off, but it is one of the wisest, richest, most poignant books this reviewer has seen all season and with pushing it will repay shelf space in any public or school collection. VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Houghton Mifflin, 288p., $16. Ages 11 to 18.
Mary E. Heslin
KLIATT - Myrna Marler
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2006: Fifteen-year-old D.J. is the only daughter in a family of dairy farmers. Her older brothers are football heroes, now gone off to college. Her younger brother plays football but is profoundly silent. In D.J.'s family, emotions are not discussed. As a result, the rift between D.J.'s father and her two older brothers remains a chasm. D.J. is the one called upon to pick up the pieces for her injured father. She is a workhorse, spending her summer days shoveling manure, baling hay, and milking cows. In fact, she begins to feel as if she is a cow, doing only the expected. Enter Brian Nelson, football star of the rival high school, who spends the summer training under D.J. D.J. not only falls in love but decides she wants to play football, too, at her own high schoolsomething no one expects. These characters are all flawed but likable. D.J., in her silence, has a lot of time to ponder who she is and what she wants. Her task over the summer is to learn to speak her mind because, as the book points out, "When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said." This is a highly readable novel with interesting characters and a valuable theme of learning to express emotions and reach out to others. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.)
Children's Literature - Wendy M. Smith-D'Arezzo
In the summer of her fifteenth year, D.J. carries the weight of her family farm quite literally on her back. Her father has had a hip operation and cannot do the physical work required on this small dairy farm in rural Wisconsin. Her mother is working two jobs, and her older brothers are away playing college football. D.J's younger brother is some help but is often busy with his own sports schedule. Football is in the family's blood and D. J. has spent most of her life either watching her brothers play or helping while they trained. She is big and strong and capable of handling a man's job. Jimmy, an old family friend and the coach for a local high school football team, is the only one who seems to notice that D. J. should not be doing this job alone. He sends Brian, a spoiled rich quarterback who needs some discipline in his life, to help. At first D.J. is not sure how Brian will be of any help to her. He does not have the work ethic that has been drilled into her and her brothers from the day they were born; he does not have a reason to put forth much effort; and he probably views her with contempt, as do most of the sleek, popular in-crowd. But Brian keeps coming back and D. J. begins to open up to him, sometimes talking directly to him and sometimes talking in her head, and they both discover new dimensions of their personalities. D.J. begins to question the silence that rules her family, to ask questions about their relationships, and to step out into uncharted territory. She even finishes her English work from sophomore year so she does not have to enter her junior year with an F on her transcript. She also decides to go out for the high school football team. This is not aneffort to emulate her older brothers, but an effort to do something for herself, to step out of the expected course of action, and to be her own person.
School Library Journal
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 Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
A painfully funny novel takes readers into the head of D.J. Schwenk, frustrated dairy farmer-cum-football trainer-cum-star linebacker. D.J. comes from a football family: Her two older brothers were legends in high school; her father used to coach. But ever since her father took out his hip, the responsibility for the farm has fallen on her shoulders, causing her to quit basketball and track and to fail sophomore English. When a family friend who coaches the rival team sends her his cocky quarterback for training over the course of one grueling summer, she learns more about her own capabilities and desires than she thought possible. This sounds like any other coming-of-age novel, but D.J.'s voice is hilariously introspective, the revelation that she lives life like a cow-"I just did what my parents told me, and my coaches, and [my friend], and [my dog] even. . . . I was nothing but a cow on two legs"-guiding both D.J. and readers through her growing friendship with the obnoxious quarterback and her decision to do the unexpected: play football. A fresh teen voice, great football action and cows-this novel rocks. (Fiction. YA)First printing of 75,000
Read an Excerpt
This whole enormous deal wouldn’t have happened, none of it, if Dad hadn’t messed up his hip moving the manure spreader. Some people laugh at that, like Brian did. The first time I said Manure Spreader he bent in half, he was laughing so hard. Which would have been hilariously funny except that it wasn’t. I tried to explain how important a manure spreader is, but it only made him laugh harder, in this really obnoxious way he has sometimes, and besides, you’re probably laughing now too. So what. I know where your milk comes from, and your hamburgers.
I’ll always remember the day it all started because Joe Namath was so sick. Dad names all his cows after football players. It’s pretty funny, actually, going to the 4-H fair, where they list the cows by farm and name. Right there next to “Happy Valley Buttercup” is “Schwenk Walter Payton,” because none of my grandpas or great-grandpas could ever come with up a name for our place better than boring old “Schwenk Farm.” Joe Namath was the only one left from the year Dad named the cows after Jets players, which I guess is kind of fitting in a way, seeing how important the real Joe Namath was and all. Our Joe was eleven years old, which is ancient for a cow, but she was such a good milker and calver we couldn’t help but keep her. These past few weeks, though, she’d really started failing, and on this morning she wasn’t even at the gate with the other cows waiting for me, she was still lying down in the pasture, and I had to help her to stand up and everything, which is pretty hard because she weighs about a ton, and she was really limping going down to the barn, and her eyes were looking all tired.
I milked her first so she could lie down again, which she did right away. Then when milking was over I left her right where she was in the barn, and she didn’t even look like she minded. Smut couldn’t figure out what I was doing and she wouldn’t come with me to take the cows back to pasture—she just stood there in the barn, chewing on her slimy old football and waiting for me to figure out I’d forgotten one of them. Finally she came, just so she could race me back home like she always does, and block me the way Win taught her. Smut was his dog, but now that he’s not talking to Dad anymore, or to me, or ever coming home again it seems like, I guess now she’s mine.
When I went in for breakfast Curtis was reading the sports section and eating something that looked kind of square and flat and black. Like roofing shingles. Curtis will eat anything because he’s growing so much. Once he complained about burnt scrambled eggs, but other than that he just shovels it in. Which makes me look like I’m being all picky about stuff that, trust me, is pretty gross.
Dad handed me a plate and shuffled back to the stove with his walker. When things got really bad last winter with his hip and Mom working two jobs and me doing all the farm work because you can’t milk thirty-two cows with a walker, Dad decided to chip in by taking over the kitchen. But he never said, “I’m going to start cooking” or “I’m not too good at this, how could I do it better?” or anything like that. He just started putting food in front of us and then yelling at us if we said anything, no matter how bad it looked. Like now.
“It’s French toast,” Dad said like it was totally obvious. He hadn’t shaved in a while, I noticed, and his forehead was white the way it’ll always be from all those years of wearing a feed cap while his chin and nose and neck were getting so tan.
I forced down a bite. It tasted kind of weird and familiar. “What’s in here?” “Cinnamon.” “Cinnamon? Where’d you get that idea?” “The Food Channel.” He said it really casual, like he didn’t know what it meant.
Curtis and I looked at each other. Curtis doesn’t laugh, really—he’s the quietest one in the family, next to him I sound like Oprah Winfrey or something, he makes Mom cry sometimes he’s so quiet—but he was grinning.
I tried to sound matter-of-fact, which was hard because I was just about dying inside: “How long you been watching the Food Channel, Dad?” “You watch your mouth.” Curtis went back to his paper, but you could tell from his shoulders that he was still grinning.
I pushed the shingles around on my plate, wishing I didn’t have to say this next thing. “Dad? Joe’s looking real bad.” “How bad?” “Bad,” I said. Dad knew what I was talking about; he’d seen her yesterday. I hate it when he acts like I’m stupid.
We didn’t say anything more. I sat there forcing down my shingles and doing the math in my head. I’d known Joe since I was four years old. That’s more than three-quarters of my life, she’d been around. Heck, Curtis was only a baby when she was born. He couldn’t even remember her noot existing. Thinking stuff like that, there’s really not much point to making conversation.
After breakfast me and Curtis disinfected all theeeee milk equipment and worked on the barn the way we have to every day, cleaning out the calf pens and sweeping the aisles and shoveling all the poop into the gutter in the barn floor, then turning on the conveyer belt in the gutter to sweep it out to the manure cart so we can haul it away.
Back when Grandpa Warren was alive, the barn just shined it was so clean. He’d spread powdered lime on the floor every day to keep everything fresh, and wipe down the light bulbs and the big fans that brought fresh air in, and whitewash the walls every year. The walls hadn’t been painted in a long time, though. I guess Dad was hurting too much these past few years to do any real cleaning, and I sure didn’t have the time. So the barn looked pretty crappy, and smelled it too.
Whenever I passed by Joe Namath I’d take a minute to pat her and tell her what a good cow she was, because I had a pretty good idea what was coming. When I heard a truck pull into the yard, I knew it was the cattle dealer come to take her away. I gave her another pat. “I’ll be right back,” I said, like that would help, and went out to say hello at least. Delay it. Curtis followed me out because we don’t get that many visitors.
It wasn’t the cattle dealer standing there, though.
Dad came out of the kitchen pushing his walker, this satisfied look on his face. He spotted me. “I’m sure you know who this is?” Yeah. I did. Curtis right behind me whistled between his teeth, only it wasn’t whistling so much as blowing, like the sound bulls make when they’re really mad. Because standing in front of his brand-new Cherokee in his brand-new work boots, looking about as much a part of our junky old farmyard as a UFO, was Brian Nelson.
Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Copyright (c) 2006 by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Reprinted by permission Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.