|Steering toward normal|
Author: Petruck, Rebecca
Newfound half-brother Wayne threatens eighth-grader Diggy's chances at the Minnesota State Fair steer competition, horns in on his girl, and rattles his easy relationship with Pop.
Download a Teacher's Guide
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 5.10
Points: 11.0 Quiz: 168581
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 6-8
Reading Level: 5.40
Points: 17.0 Quiz: 65369
Kirkus Reviews (04/01/14)
School Library Journal (-) (04/01/14)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (+) (09/14)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 04/01/2014 Gr 6–8—A rural small town in Minnesota creates a backdrop for a realistic story focused on relationships and emotions. Diggy Lawson finds out that he has a half brother when his classmate Wayne is dropped off at his house following the death of Wayne's mother and he learns that they share a father. Amidst anger, confusion, grief, competiveness, and even some amusing pranks, Diggy and Wayne both end up raising steers with support from 4-H to enter into the fair. Diggy's anger and confusion seem quite typical for an eighth grader, but his vacillating struggle with these feelings doesn't seem to follow a recognizable path toward growth and reconciliation. The effect is that readers are swept up in Diggy's confusion rather than identifying with it from the role of a sympathetic spectator. Additionally, the plot arc seems flat, as Diggy's emotions seem to reset every couple months. Readers unfamiliar with the routines and sensations of caring for livestock may have difficulty becoming engaged in the overall narrative.While this book fits in a mostly empty niche market for stories about 4-H, it may not be worth purchasing for other communities.—Erin Reilly-Sanders, Ohio State University, Columbus - Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 05/01/2014 Eighth-grader Diggy wants to raise a champion steer and win the grand prize at the Minnesota State Fair, thereby impressing his crush—graduating senior and last year’s grand champion July. Raising a calf requires hard work and sacrifice, but with Pop’s support, Diggy is ready to put in the hours. His careful routine is unsettled when Wayne, a town boy, is dumped at their farm late one night by his drunken father. Wayne’s mother has recently died, bringing to light an infidelity that shocks the whole town: Pop is Wayne’s biological father. Suddenly Diggy has a half brother competing for Pop’s attention, attending Diggy’s 4H meetings, and asking questions about Diggy’s own absent mother. When Wayne decides he is going to raise a steer, too, Diggy has had it. In Petruck’s capable hands, raising a steer—caring for it, loving it, and eventually letting it go—becomes a keen metaphor for the loss of a loved one. Diggy is a perceptive narrator, but not unusually so for his age, and it’s reassuring to see him sort out his tangled feelings. - Copyright 2014 Booklist.
Bulletin for the Center... - 09/01/2014 Diggy has spent all thirteen years of his life with his father, having been left on Pop’s doorstep as a baby when Diggy’s mother famously left town riding a tractor. Diggy’s classmate Wayne-almost a year older-now finds himself in a similar situation when his mother’s death leads to his dad’s alcoholism spiraling out of control and dumping Wayne at Pop’s place in a drunken fit, with the bombshell that Pop is actually Wayne’s father. Diggy must learn to adjust to having a brother-especially one “from town”-at the height of an already stressful season for him: he’s being groomed by the reigning champion 4-H steer-raiser (on whom he also has a major crush) to take over her top slot with his calf, Joker. Meanwhile, Wayne gets a steer of his own in order to fit in better with his new family while still trying to get a handle on his grief and shifting relationships. Petruck expertly manifests the gruff ways that teenage guys-especially brothers-express vulnerability coated with a veneer of hobbies and practical joking, and she slowly draws her characters together over steer grooming and model rockets. The parallels between Diggy and Wayne’s feelings of abandonment are subtly but divergently developed; as Diggy throws himself into obtaining future goals to win approval, Wayne dives into the past, hoping that by finding Diggy’s mother, he can achieve closure on his own mother’s death. Pop is also a character in his own right, dispensing world-wise advice, learned from his flawed past. It’s the warm but difficult relationship between Diggy and Wayne that makes this one a purple ribbon (with a 4-H glossary and practical joke handbook for city folks in the back matter). TA - Copyright 2014 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.