What We’re Reading: Catherine Gilbert Murdoch’s Dairy Queen (and more!)

Three beautiful books await your discovery today, thanks to our SK Book Review Team!


from Amy (Girlfriends Get Real, Unforgettable Childhood)

deepintheswampA couple of weeks ago my daughter had a book fair at her preschool. She found a few books that grabbed her attention. As we were browsing I saw the book Deep in the Swamp by Donna M. Bateman. At first glance, I thought that it would be a good addition to our home library. On the cover was an alligator. My daughter has been intrigued by alligators since our trip to Hilton Head Island. We saw them sitting in the backyards of people as we were on a bike ride through town and they have become a favorite in our house.

I did not read through the book at the school so I was pleasantly surprised by the rhyming story that also focused on counting. As you explore Okefenokee Swamp in the story you see a variety of animals in their swamp habitat. The beautiful illustrations show an animal with their babies surrounded by swamp plants like water lilies and cattails.

My daughters favorite page turned out to be the Marsh Rabbits. Here is an excerpt from this page:

Deep in the swamp, in a thicket on the shore,
Lived a mother marsh rabbit and her little bunnies Four.
“Snooze!” said the mother. “We snooze,” said the Four.
So they snoozed all day long in their thicket on the shore.

A wonderful addition to the book comes at the end. There is a glossary with each animal and water loving plant with facts. My three year old even wants me to read this section. Living in the Midwest on the prairie it is fun for all of us to learn more about the animals in the Okefenokee Swamp.

Early Elementary

from MJ (turnitupmom)

Fly Away HomeAs we approach Thanksgiving, I thought it fitting to share a story that prompts me to count my blessings every time I read it. Fly Away Home, by Eve Bunting, is the story of a homeless boy and his father who live in an airport, ducking in and out of different terminals to avoid being sent out on the streets. Ronald Himler’s blurred watercolor illustrations nicely compliment this father and son’s life of anonymity.

I love that this story is told from the boy’s perspective. We learn that a typical day includes wearing blue, sleeping sitting up, washing in the restroom, and eating in the cafeteria. No matter what he’s doing, the goal is always to blend in and go unnoticed. And naturally, the boy experiences a range of emotions, including fear, sadness, and anger.

While this may seem like a heavy plot line, it is also a story of hope. One day a wounded bird is caught in the main terminal and the little boy encourages it to fly free: “Don’t stop trying . . .Don’t! You can get out!” Bunting revisits the bird motif on the final page: “And when the bird left, when it flew free, I know it was singing.”

This story is a must-read for every child. It increases awareness about the plight of the homeless and dispels the commonly held belief that if you’re working, you can pay rent. We are all worthy of a place to call home. May you have a healthy, safe, and warm Thanksgiving!

Upper Elementary

from Diana (Holes in my Shiny Veneer)

dairyqueenMy pick for this month is a bit older than some of my previous recommendations:  Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock was named an ALA 2006 Best Book for Young Adults.  Perhaps I’m recommending it because it’s another seasonal pick because Dairy Queen is, at first glance, about high school football.  You’ll know that this isn’t your typical book about high school football, though, as soon as you realize that the protagonist, D.J. Schwenk is a girl.

D.J. is a farm girl in small town Wisconsin.  In this first novel from Murdock, we find D.J.  in the summer before her junior year working to save the family farm.  Her older football-star brothers are away on college scholarships and her younger brother is on a championship Little League team, so the farm chores have been laid on her shoulders after her father’s hip injury.  D.J. has sacrificed a lot for her family, but given that her family has more than the usual amount of trouble communicating, she doesn’t exactly feel appreciated.

Things get complicated when she finds herself using her football knowledge to train Brian Nelson, the quarterback of the rival high school.  Things get even more complicated when D.J. finds herself becoming friends with Brian and realizes that she can’t talk at all to her best friend, Amber.  And yes, D.J. eventually decides to go out for the football team herself, meaning that her new friend, Brian, is now even more of a rival than before.

Murdock’s creation of the character of D.J. is truly unforgettable.  D.J. pushes herself to her limits over and over and teaches Brian what it means to do your best.  She comes to grips with her dreams and pursues them, willing to overcome the odds to reach them.  I can’t think of any character I’ve ever met with such a work ethic who still comes across as a flesh and blood teenager.  I’m looking forward to encountering D.J. again in the rest of Murdock’s trilogy in The Off Season and Front and Center.

(Please bear in mind that this is a young adult novel and deals with some more mature themes such as homosexuality and teenage drinking.)

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  1. We have a book called “Over in the Meadow,” illustrated Ezra Jack Keats that must be the same series as “Deep in the Swamp.” The words are almost the same.

    Over in the meadow, in the sand, in the sun
    lived an old mother turtle and her little turtle one.
    “Dig” said the mother. “We dig!” said the one.
    So they dug all day in the sand in the sun.

    Your post piqued my interest and led me to Google. Apparently both books are based on a popular counting rhyme, perhaps dating back to the 16th centry. That’s interesting.
    .-= Tessa´s last blog ..Baby Zig =-.

  2. I’m from Georgia, so I am very excited to see this book set in the Okefenokee Swamp. I’ve already requested it from the library. Thanks!
    .-= Fun Mama – Deanna´s last blog ..What I Wish I Knew =-.

  3. Deep in the swamp looks beautiful!
    .-= aaron shaw phd´s last blog ..Baby Animal of the Day! Fox! =-.

  4. Love all your book suggestions! Do you have any ideas for children’s books relating to death/dying, losing a loved one. My children just lost a sweet grandmother, my husband and I had been helping take care of her for over a year. One of the grandchildren is particularly upset because she faithfully prayed for Grandma to be healed and get well again. Hard concepts to understand for a 3rd grader. One of the grandchildren is just more curious, ‘how did Grandma get to heaven’? We would appreciate any suggestions you may have on this subject. THANKS!
    .-= Sarah C´s last blog ..First day of 1st Grade! =-.