ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock - YA teen novel book review

Updated on September 7, 2013

Looking for a good read for teens and adults?

Dairy Queen is an interesting YA novel for a number of reasons. First, I never would have believed Catherine Gilbert Murdock's debut teen novel, Dairy Queen, about a fifteen-year-old Wisconsin farm girl, D.J. Schwenk, whose family is steeped in football would keep me up all night reading, but that is what happened.

I refused to stop reading the perfect-pitched voice of her protagonist, D.J. (Dorrie) Schwenk. Second, Murdock's book is definitely against type when it comes to characters and subject matter. I'm not surprised the book has won so many awards and shown up on so many reading lists across the nation.

Please scroll through the entire lens. This is an on-going lens about the book DAIRY QUEEN and its author Catherine Gilbert Murdock. You'll find a lot of information and opportunities to give voice to your opinions. After all, if there's one thing D.J. of DAIRY QUEEN fame is all about it's voice and talk--and now, as they say, the rest of the story.

Two cows share the skinny about DJ and Dairy Queen - What's on the cow's mind?

"When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said."

Catherine Gilbert Murdoch, Dairy Queen

The thing about D.J. and her family is that they do not talk. They work. When D.J. finally discovers her voice, this fifteen-year-old has a lot to say about her life, her family, her passion for sports, and her cows. While Dairy Queen may appear to be about Wisconsin farm life, heartland football, and a maturing teenager, at its center the book is an exploration into communication and what happens when families and friends fail to go beyond surface talk.

It's hard to ignore the opening passages where D.J. describes her aging cow, Joe Namath, and how, despite her deep feelings, she had to lead the cow to the butcher's trailer.

"If this was a perfect world, we'd keep her forever and spend a million dollars trying to fix her sore legs and she'd die of old age in a rocking chair or some pretty pasture. But this isn't a perfect world, it's Wisconsin, and feed costs money and vets cost money, and we barely have enough for the healthy cows, and the butcher pays us money for the old cows, and that money feeds the healthy ones."

D.J. knows about cows. Her family lives on the Wisconsin farm her great grandfather bought; she still bales hay with the same baler Grandpa Warren used. She's never heard of power washers. But D.J.'s spent her life caring for cows, listening to cows. Since her Dad's operation and his inability to work the farm, she's milked thirty-two cows two times a day, seven days a week. So don't even talk to D.J. about cows.

It would be nice if she had help, but her two star football-playing older brothers have gone off to college, her teacher-mom is working even more hours as the fill-in for the retired principle, and her younger brother is caught up in the end-of-season baseball run-off. When Grandpa Warren ran the farm it had the spit and polish of a marine barracks. Now, despite her mowing, manure spreading, hay baling, cow milking efforts, the barn is in desperate need of cleaning, the milk house of painting, and the granary, corncribs, and old chicken coop of resuscitation.

It would be nicer still if anyone in her family talked. Instead, her mom hid behind her work at school, her younger brother remained mute, collected skulls, and loved going to the dentist, her father devoted all his time to trying out new recipes, and the two older brothers returned to college five months ago and as far as D.J. knows haven't spoken to anyone since.

When her family friend and rival high school football coach sent his football star, Brian Nelson, to report for farm duty, D.J.'s life is forever altered. First, he played for the wrong football team. Second, the boy didn't want to work. But then Brian compared her to a cow. Cows "go along doing what they're supposed to do without complaining or even really noticing, until they die." He infuriated her; he befriended her. Despite all her misgivings, D.J. agreed to become Brian's sports trainer for the summer.

D.J.'s love for sports entered full force. Yes, she'd been on the track team; yes, she'd played on the basketball team. But Brian's words released the Schwenk family passion. Before long she cut her hair, put on pads, and tried out for the high school football team. Did she dare tell her family? What about Brian? Their friendship seemed to have deepened over the summer. What would he say if she played against him? Never mind, D.J. had a lot to say to all of them.

The latest book by the author of Dairy Queen - Heaven is Paved with Oreos by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Heaven Is Paved with Oreos
Heaven Is Paved with Oreos
This book has everything from a dead calf and a trip to Italy to a first romance. Great for ages 10 and up.

Fast-paced ending with characters who linger, working Murdock's magic in the reader's mind.

One of Murdock's threads touches on the sexual orientation of one of the characters. It's an echo of the major theme and done with a light touch, not with humor but with care. Some may find that it provides added depth. In the end, I wasn't sure how necessary it was given the many layers already woven into the story's fabric but it added texture and it works.

Dairy Queen encourages you to wade further and further into deep waters. D.J. is coming into her own as an individual and as a young woman. While the opening does read a bit slow, it captures the thought processes of a young woman who is not used to talking and who has to slog her way through mounds of verbiage.

The long, sometimes extra long, sentences reflect a mind groping, searching to find the right phrase. The story soon gains momentum. Murdock is great at depicting farm life and expertly weaves the descriptions in with D.J.'s observations making them all relevant, and the barn functions as a symbol that works on several levels. While the story builds to a fast-paced ending, the characters linger, working Murdoch's magic in the reader's mind long after the final page has been turned.

Dairy Queen is aimed for readers 12 and up, but the story will provide the most enjoyment for readers who are mature and willing to allow D.J. all the room she needs to grow. The book is a great way for mothers and daughters to share a good read and share their thoughts about the story. The results might be interesting.

Dairy Queen Trilogy available on Kindle - Download and grab your e-book reader to read Dairy Queen

The YA novel Dairy Queen has gone on to win many awards and been hailed as a great teen read. Great novel for a summer reading program, too. Different type of teen protagonist, different setting, different action.

Dairy Queen
Dairy Queen
Murdock's debut teen novel is a great read for adults, too. If you're looking for something different, this your book.
The Off Season (Dairy Queen Book 2)
The Off Season (Dairy Queen Book 2)
If you enjoyed reading Dairy Queen, then reading this sequel will be a given. Learn even more about DJ.
Front and Center (Dairy Queen Book 3)
Front and Center (Dairy Queen Book 3)
Finally, the third and final book in the trilogy that began with Dairy Queen. More trials and tribulations for this maturing teen.
Kindle, 6" E Ink Display, Wi-Fi - Includes Special Offers (Previous Generation - 5th)
Kindle, 6" E Ink Display, Wi-Fi - Includes Special Offers (Previous Generation - 5th)
I bought one of the first Kindles and have loved it from the beginning. It's great to be able to carry around so many books in the Kindle ebook. Easy to use, too.

Book Trailor about D.J's story - Learn about life on the farm

Book Trailer by msbibliotecaria. Images from Flickr Creative Commons - created at

Award-winning Young Adult Novel Many Times Over

Awards for Catherine Gilbert Murdock's YA novel

Ultimate Teen Reading List,

Borders Original Voices Award, Winner, 2006

Booksense Picks for Children, Summer 2006 #1 Pick

Midwest Booksellers' Choice Award for Children's Literature, Midwest Booksellers' Association, Winner, 2007

Great Lakes Book Award for Children's Books, Great Lakes Booksellers Assoc., Winner, 2007

Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award, 2008 Honor Book

Best Books 2006, School Library Journal

VOYA Review Editor's Choice, 2006

Top-Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers, VOYA 2006

Best Books for Young Adults, American Library Association 2007

TAYSHAS Reading List, Texas Library Association, 2007-2008

Lone Star Reading List, Texas Library Association, 2007-2008

Quill Awards Finalist, 2006

"Read On Wisconsin!" inaugural selection, September 2007

State Awards


Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award, Colorado Association of Libraries et al., 2009 Nominee


Nutmeg Award, Connecticut State Library, 2009 Nominee


Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award, Illinois School Library Media Association, 2009 Nominee


Kentucky Bluegrass Award, Eastern Kentucky University Libraries, 2008 Nominee >>


Maine Student Book Award, Maine Library Association, Maine Association of School Libraries and Maine Reading Association, 2007-8 Nominee >>

New Hampshire

Isinglass Teen Read Award, New Hampshire Library Association, 2009 Nominee

New Jersey

Garden State Teen Book Awards, 2009 Nominee


Sequoyah Award, Oklahoma Library Association, 2009 Nominee

Pacific Northwest

Young Reader's Choice Awards, Pacific Northwest Library Association, 2009 Nominee


Young Reader's Choice Award, Pennsylvania School Libraries Association, 2008-2009, Winner

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Teen Book Award, Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee, 2009 Nominee


Volunteer State Book Award, Tennessee Association of School Librarians, 2007-8 Nominee


Beehive Book Award, Children's Literature Association of Utah, 2008 Nominee


Green Mountain Book Award, Vermont School Library Association, Vermont Library Association & Vermont Dept of Libraries, 2008-9 Nominee

Washington State

Evergreen Young Adult Book Award, Washington Young Adult Review Group, 2009 Nominee



Inky Awards, State Library of Victoria, 2007 Nominee

Who is Catherine Gilbert Murdock? - Young adult novelist's debut novel captures attention


As a teen I was wracked by hyper self-consciousness and self-criticism, acne, parental issues, loneliness, height . . . Miserable as I was at the time, I can see now that a lot of that pain is universal (except maybe the tall part). It wasn't too much effort to channel it through D.J. Before I started Dairy Queen, I bought an armful of YA books just to get some sense of what I should be aiming for in terms of length, content, acceptable bad words, etc. I also reread a lot of my favorite authors from way back, such as Anne McCaffrey and Susan Cooper. But I'm not a voracious reader. I was pretty squeamish about the all-I-want-is-a-boyfriend books when I was a kid, and I'm afraid I still am, at least as a dietary staple, though they're fun as a condiment sometimes." - Catherine Gilbert Murdock


"So many people have contacted me about their own farming experiences - that's something I never would have predicted, the amazing number of Americans who still have a personal connection to the farm, through a childhood friend or a relative, a community . . . The soil isn't nearly as far away as I had thought." - Catherine Gilbert Murdock

The author of Dairy Queen speaks to booksellers - Catherine Murdock attends the Midwest Booksellers Association.

DAIRY QUEEN - Photo Story & Book Trailer Video - Book video review created by a student

Resources for this Recommended Read - Book Report and Lesson Plans

DAIRY QUEEN is a recommended read in many schools, so my goal is to make this lens a great resource for all readers but especially for students and teachers. Please let me know of any additional resources.

So What Did You Really Think? - Rate this book and tell others all about Dairy Queen

On a scale of 1-7, what did you REALLY think?

See results

Vote for Your Favorite Catherine Gilbert Murdock Book - Is DAIRY QUEEN the best?

What's your favorite book?

See results

Should this book be recommended reading? - What do you think about the story?

Here's your chance to sound off about the book. Tell us what you thought. How did you react to D.J., her family, and the whole lack of communication? Good, bad or indifferent, we'd love to hear from you.

What did you think about Catherine Gilbert Murdock's YA novel?

Elizabeth Gilbert - Catherine Gilbert Murdoch's sister

Writing runs in the Gilbert family because both Elizabeth and Catherine are published and doing well. Catherine's sister, Elizabeth, wrote Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia and it has been turned into a movie.

Catherine Murdock on her sister Elizabeth Gilbert

What's it like to have a well-known author for a sister?

"Completely awesome. Liz could not have been more supportive; she has been for years, encouraging me to write more. On the other hand, I was rabidly paranoid. For example, I was hugely concerned that when writing dialogue I'd end up with a column of said...said...said...said...going down the page. Just a little bit obsessive on that one. At the time I was writing DAIRY QUEEN, Liz was in Europe and Asia researching EAT, PRAY, LOVE, and we were sending long e-mails back and forth every day, and finally late in the summer I mustered my courage and mentioned that I was, you know, writing this little thing, and maybe she could take a look? I'd made this deadline for myself that I'd finish it so she could read it on the plane back to New York, and I really threw myself into getting that accomplished, and then FedExing it to Bali, which is much less difficult than you'd think, and then of course I paced the house, wondering if she'd received it, and what she thought, and on and on... She called me the morning after she landed and said, "It's great, it's perfect, what can I do to help you get it published?" Later, whenever I mentioned that I'd changed a chapter or added a scene, she'd shake her head and say, "It was already perfect." (It wasn't.) Plus, she found me an amazing agent. (

Elizabeth Gilbert's book has been a New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller for over 200 weeks. an American Booksellers Association Acclaimed Best Seller and been #1 on the Booksense Paperback Nonfiction List for over a year! Currently, there are over Ten Million copies now in print

New York Times writer A.O. Scott says, "This paradigm is, of course, much older than the movies, but it can be refreshing, now and then, to see something different in the multiplex: a movie that takes seriously (or for that matter has fun with) a woman's autonomy, her creativity, her desire for something other than a mate."

EAT, PRAY, LOVE Book or Movie? - Seen the movie, read the book? What'd ya think?

Share your thoughts about the whole book-movie debate.

Which is better? The book or the movie?

Thank You for Checking Out my Lens on DAIRY QUEEN by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Yes, it's my very first lens....

As this is my very fist Squidoo lens and this is one of my favorite recent young adult novels to review, I'm doubly glad you stopped by.

If you're not a member of Squidoo yet, please join.

Hope you add this lens to your favorites.

Check back as I will be adding more as I learn more. Please feel free to share info on DAIRY QUEEN and/or Catherine Murdock, too. Visit my blog on writing at Down the Writer's Path


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)