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Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Dairy Queen
y Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Publishing Information: Houghton Mifflin: New York, 2006
ISBN: 9780618683079 / 9780618863358 (PB) / 9780739335475 (Audio)
: 278 p.
Ages: 11 & Up

After spending her summer running the family farm and training the quarterback for her school's rival football team, sixteen-year-old D.J. decides to go out for the sport herself, not anticipating the reactions of those around her

Book Talk:

  1. Dairy Queen is told through the eyes of D.J. (Dorrie) Schwenk. While her father is recovering from an injury, she does most of the work on her family’s dairy farm since her older brothers are big football stars and away at college.  All the Schwenks are interested in football and D.J. is too.  If you can imagine a big football rivalry like the Eagles and the Cowboys, or Army / Navy, you’ll understand the level of animosity between D.J’s high school, Red Bend, and their archrival, Hawley. Circumstances arise that put D.J. in the position to train Hawley’s quarterback, Brian, over the summer. Brian has an attitude.  He’s a bit lazy, kind of rich (at least compared to DJ’s family) and … he’s really cute.  It makes for a story! And D.J.'s voice makes the story come alive. Dairy Queen isn’t just about farm life and football. It also explores the importance of open, honest communication and what can happen if families and friends don’t ever really talk to each other.   (Jean B. Bellavance)
  2. So I know what you are thinking. "Heifers don't play football." D.J. Schwenk must be crazy thinking she is going to play for the Red Bend, Wisconsin, high school football team.
    The thing is, I am not a bad football player. I'm athletic and I grew up in a football family. My father is an ex-coach. I played pee wee football, and practiced with my two brothers, who are going to college on football scholarships.
    But, you ask, why would any girl want to play football? Here is my answer. When I'm sprinting down a pasture and I look over my shoulder and see the ball coming, and I reach out and make the catch, it is the most perfect feeling in the world. Oh and the other reason is because, if I could make the Red Bend team it will mean I wasn't living like some cow.
    That is what Brian had called me the first time we met. He had been sent to my Dad's farm to learn to work by the coach of the Hawley High football team and he resented it. But what he said rang true and I couldn't stop thinking about it.
    Everybody I looked at, my family and the people I knew did exactly what they were expected to do. They never made choices. They acted like cows. And I was just the same, not pretty or popular, flunking sophomore English because I had to help around the farm since my Dad had gotten hurt.
    But then I got this idea about playing on the football team. Something no other girl, at least around here, had ever done. It would mean I could do something that was my own idea. Something that would make me feel special. The only question was could I make the team. Oh, and how long could I keep the whole thing from my Dad and my best friend Amber.
    BookTalk submitted by Tom Reynolds, Sno-Isle Regional Library, Marysville, WA.
    March 2007. 
Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Farm life

Awards & Reviews:
Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award, Master List, 2009
Beehive Award Nominee, Children's Library Association of Utah, 2007-2008
BookSense Summer Books for Children #1 Pick, 2006
Borders Original Voices Award (Young Adult Literature), 2006
Great Lakes Book Award for Children's Books, 2007
Lone Star List for Texas Middle School Readers, 2007
Midwest Booksellers' Choice Award for Children's List, 2007
Pennsylvania School LIbrarians Association YA Top Forty List, 2006

Quill Award, Young Adult Category (Finalist), 2006
School Library Journal Best Books List, 2006
TAYSHAS List for Texas Young Adult Readers, 2007-2008
Thumbs Up! Award, Michigan Library Association (Honor Book), 2007
VOYA Review Editor's Choice, 2006
VOYA Top-Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers, 2006
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2007
Young Reader's Choice Award, Pennsylvania School Libraries Associaton, 2008-2009

Booklist, April 1, 2006, p. 36
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2006 (Starred Review)
, JUly 1, 2007
Publishers Weekly
, May 15, 2006, p. 73 (Starred Review)
School Library Journal, April 1, 2005, p. 145

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. D.J. often identifies herself through her physical appearance. Do you think she has a healthy or unhealthy body image?
  2. The Schwenk family isn’t very good at talking about problems. How has this affected each family member? How do you think that your family would handle the kind of problems the Schwenks are facing?
  3. D.J. does a lot of growing up over the course of the story. How do the other characters in the book grow up? What role does she have in this development?
  4. Is D.J.’s father a sympathetic character? Why or why not?
  5. D.J.’s mother is absent for much of the story. Why do you think this is? How do you think you would react in her situation? 
  6. In what ways does Brian match and break the stereotype of a popular high school quarterback? Did your impression of him change over the course of the story? If so, how was this accomplished?
  7. Brian and D.J. both begin the story with very strong views of the world. What are some of their initial opinions, and how do these change over the course of the book? How do D.J. and Brian challenge each other?
  8. D.J. and Brian are about to resume high school. What are some of the obstacles they’ll face? What strengths and weaknesses do they each have in facing these obstacles?
  9. Amber has a minor but critical role in Dairy Queen. How would the story differ without her presence?
  10. What do you think will happen to Curtis in eighth grade and high school?
  11. Is D.J. an appropriate role model for fifteen-year-old girls? If she attended your school, would you consider her a role model?

Related Websites:
Author's Website:

"Empowering Women in Sports."

"Since Title IX: Female Athletes in Young Adult Fiction" by Grant T. Smith, Ph.D. Viterbo College:

The Broadway Ballplayers: Friday Nights by Maureen Holohan, 1998
Cosmos Coyote and William the Nice by Jim Henen, 2000
Dixie Storms
by Barbara Hall, 1990
Farm Team
by Will Weaver, 1995
The Goatnappers
by Rosa Jordan, 2007
Growing Season
by Alden R. Carter, 1984
Harris and Me: A Summer Remembered
by Gary Paulsen, 1993
High and Outside by Linnea A. Due, 1980
In Lane Three, Alex Archer by Tessa Duder, 1987
The Outside Groove by Erick Eskilsen, 2006
Rimwalkers by Vicki Grove, 1993
Shadow and Light
by Katherine Jay Bacon, 1987
Striking Out
by Will Weaver, 1993
by R.R. Knudson, 1972
Zanbanger by R.R. Knudson, 1977
Zanboomer by R.R. Knudson, 1978

Other Books by the Author:
The Off Season , 2007 (sequel to Dairy Queen)
Princess Ben: Being a Wholly Truthful Account of Her Various Discoveries and Misadventures, Recounted to the Best of Her Recollections, in Four Parts, 2008

About the Author:
Catherine Gilbert Murdock is a big fan of family farms. She herself grew up on a tiny farm (goats and honeybees) in Connecticut, and although she never played football she shares D.J.'s passion for vigorous training. In fact, she was a devoted triathlete until a knee injury sidelined her. Murdock attended Bryn Mawr College and received a Ph.D. in American civilization from the University of Pennsylvania. She is a self-described "foodie" who, when not writing Dairy Queen, spent much of the past few years renovating an elderly kitchen. She lives in suburban Pennsylvania with her husband, James, two children, and three cats. She is the sister of the author Elizabeth Gilbert.
le to write full-time. He has written over 120 novels and has won many prestigious awards.

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair