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Dairy Queen
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Dairy Queen

4.5 193
by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

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When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Harsh words indeed, from Brian Nelson of all people. But, D. J. can’t help admitting, maybe he’s right.

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Stuff like why her best friend, Amber, isn’t so


When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Harsh words indeed, from Brian Nelson of all people. But, D. J. can’t help admitting, maybe he’s right.

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Stuff like why her best friend, Amber, isn’t so friendly anymore. Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens his mouth. Why her mom has two jobs and a big secret. Why her college-football-star brothers won’t even call home. Why her dad would go ballistic if she tried out for the high school football team herself. And why Brian is so, so out of her league.

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D. J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say.

Editorial Reviews

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.
Publishers Weekly
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.
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.
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 school—something 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.)
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.
Kirkus Reviews
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

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)
990L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Dairy Queen

By Catherine Murdock

Houghton Mifflin

Copyright © 2006 Catherine Murdock
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0618683070

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 wecouldn'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
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? Where'd you get that idea?"
"The Food Channel." He said it really casual, like he didn't know what it
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 not existing.
Thinking stuff like that, there's really not much point to making conversation.
After breakfast me and Curtis disinfected all the 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.


Excerpted from Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock Copyright © 2006 by Catherine Murdock. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

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 Publishers Weekly, Starred

"A fresh teen voice, great football action and cows—this novel rocks."—Kirkus Reviews, starred 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 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

Meet the Author

Catherine Murdock grew up on a small farm in Connecticut and now lives in suburban Philadelphia with her husband, two brilliant unicycling children, several cats, and a one-acre yard that she is slowly transforming into a wee, but flourishing ecosystem. She is the author of several books, including the popular Dairy Queen series starring lovable heroine D. J. Schwenk,  Princess Ben, and Wisdom's Kiss.

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Dairy Queen 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 193 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The only sport that D.J. will truly ever know is football, what with most of her family playing it and the cows having names like Joe Namath. The only life D.J. Schwenk is used to is the farm life. Now that her two oldest brothers are gone to college, and never seem to stay in contact with them, and her father having a bad hip, it¿s up to D.J. and her brother, Curtis, the one that hardly ever talks, to get things done. But this summer it looks like D.J. will be getting an extra hand from Brian Nelson, the football player from Hawley, the enemy school. Even though Brian is helping, he isn¿t very good at it. Let¿s just say his farm work is as bad as his football skills. But for some reason, everyone thinks he¿s the next greatest football player. What¿s worse is that D.J. is actually starting to like Brian, but he¿s the enemy and can hardly throw a ball. So what does D.J. do? Well, she starts to train Brian, since she would always have to help her brothers during football season, and maybe now Brian would see her as more than just a farm girl. That¿s not the only issue that D.J. has though her mother is working two jobs to support the family and it seems like she is keeping something from them. And D.J.¿s best friend isn't being so friendly anymore. And what about the idea that just so suddenly pops up into D.J.¿s mind, the one that says she should try out for the football team. Let¿s just hope that not everyone in her town will go crazy over this idea, especially her parents. But can she do it? DAIRY QUEEN is an extremely cute coming-of-age novel. It goes against all the clichés where girls are just not good at guy sports. And D.J. is the perfect heroine, showing that anyone can do anything if they just put their mind to it. A wonderful story that is far from ice-cream -- but it still fills your heart with joy! **Reviewed by: Randstostipher 'tallnlankyrn' Nguyen
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was really good. I loved D.J's sense of humor. In the beginning, though, it was kind of slow. But then it got way better when D.J gets a huge surprise. The sentences are really long (run-ons) for some reason, making it kind of hard to pay attention and follow along (for me at least), but it was an excellent read and I couldn't put it down once I got to the middle. Everyone must read this novel!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely LOVED this book. I had to read it for school and though it was going to be boring, but i was most definately wrong. If you go to school with a bunch of farmer and cant relate to any of them then this is the book for you. It shows you that farming is more then a job, it's a passion. I loved the character Brian Nelson. He's the guy people dream of, in a more gentle way.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dairy Queen was really good i would defintally recommend it. I don't read that much but i just could not put this book down. People can really relate to D.J. I can't wait to read the seuel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is great. I love D.Js sense of humor! When i saw it my face lit up because im obsessed with cows. Although its kind of short, its a great book. (Ive always wanted to own a farm.)
april cerda More than 1 year ago
I honstely love this book a lot
Guest More than 1 year ago
when i went to the bookstore, the lady recomended it to me, she knew my taste so well, i loved this book, i all of a sudden got into reading books and i loved this one i read it in one day i started and only stopped to eat lunch and loved the book, its a cute little love story! Cant wait to buy the sequel!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much it is a great read for any one espicially other teens
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked it alot
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting with lots of different twists and turns. I would definitely read it again. Make sure you know sports before you read this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I own this book and i love it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dairy queen is a book that appeals to the intrest of any young dairy farmer. I know it did to me cause icould relate to it. It combined my love for dairy farming and football. Its very exciting to predict how her love life will end too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You will just fall in love. And hate to see the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This waz a really good read, I think this was an awesome read. I really do! By the way if u think i,m kidding then, why ront u readit youself. See told you it would be a very good read, indeed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book I never wanted to put down. Also good for people who have trouble finding a book they like.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked up the book originally when a friend recommended it to me. It sat on my floor for a while before I actually opened to the first page, and I couldn't believe I'd let it sit on my floor. I'm normally not big on books about a girl in high school who meets a guy, but this book is much more. It describes the life of a 15 year old girl who has so much going on and no one to share it with. And when she finally finds someone, everything starts to change for the both of them. D.J.'s story is easy to relate to, and her narrating is so realistic of a 15 year old and so entertaining, it makes for a great overall read. Definately worth taking the time to sit down and read. You'll be glad you did.
Annemarie Maag-Tanchak More than 1 year ago
This book is heartwarming, halarious, and leaves you wishing they were a real family. DJ is a spunky farmgirl with a boatload of determination. This is honestly one of the best books i've ever read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I started to read this book and thought I wouldn't like it. In the beginning it goes kind of slow and everything, but by the middle of the book, D.J. Schwenk has to train a guy named Brian Nelson to become an all star football player. D.J. herself wants to try out for the football team at her school, but her father would freak out if she ever did that. She has two all-star football player brothers who played for the school before they graduated. When school starts back, she decides she will try out for the football team to see what people would say. She tells her mom and brother, but they never talk either, so her mother ends up having to tell her father. He does not freak out, but he is shocked. At the game against Brian's school, Brian figures out that D.J. tried out, and does not talk to her for a while. When the game for the final win comes along, her dad, mom, little brother, his girlfriend, and her older brother comes too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is by far the WORST book you'll ever read. Im a 38 year old man who is more interesting than the main character D.J. IT TAKES FOREVERRRRRRRRRR TO READ AND I DREADED READING IT. IT GOES ON FOREVER AND THE ONLY SUPRISING THING IS AMBER. I HATE THIS. DO NOT RECOMMEND IT. SLOW PACED. BORING. SCUMMY. PEICE OF TRASH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DJ IS SO ANNOYING AND IS A COW AND VERY IMMATURE!!!!!!! BRIAN DOESNT LIKE YOU HONEY! very predictable! i would give this negative stars if possible bc the author is bad at writing there is many grammar errors!!!!!!!!!!!!  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't get why girls can't play football with guys. Girl have rights to. Don't they. Girls can be as good as guys or even better. It is worng to jugde on size,wieght,color,and gender. I love to play football am good at and i can not play because i am a girl!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
:) :) :):):):):):):):):):):):):):)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love (x-one million)this book. I loved the ending so much. It was so sweet that there was a love story tied into it. I also liked how the book was really a paper to her english teacher. I was pushed to read this book by my best friend and i am so glad i read the book. I cannot express how much i loved the book. I would recommend the book to any one especially preteen and teenage girls. I love the book sooooooooooooooooooo much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was so addicted to this book, i was so addicted i read all of it in 4HOURS can you believe that