Dairy Queen


Catherine Gilbert Murdock

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D.J. is a fifteen year old girl who knows a thing or two about hard work. Since her father is injured, she has to spend summer vacation doing nearly all of the work on her family’s dairy farm. She milks the cows fourteen times a week, plus takes care of haying, mowing, and a million other jobs. With all that work to do, you might expect her to be happy when a surprise helper shows up one morning. Unfortunately, that helper is Brian Nelson. Brian plays quarterback for the Hawley High School football team. D.J. goes to Red Bend High, and so did her football star brothers, and the rivalry between the schools is very serious. Besides that, Brian is the complete opposite of D.J.: He gets top grades, drives a new Cherokee his dad bought him, and girls are always chasing after him. He’s also lazy, spoiled, and full of himself. His coach is forcing him to work on a farm to learn a lesson about the value of hard work. When he quits the first day, it looks like he’s failed the lesson, and D.J. doesn’t mind at all. But Brian comes back for another try. And soon D.J. comes up with a crazy idea: she can be his personal trainer and prepare him for the coming football season. She learned a lot about the sport through years of working out with her brothers. Then D.J. gets another crazy idea, but this one’s a secret: While she’s getting Brian in top football shape, she is also preparing herself to be the first girl in history to play on the Red Bend High football team.

Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. Dairy Queen could be described as a sports story, a family story, or a romance. Which description do you think fits best?
  2. Why is it so difficult for D.J. and for others in her family to talk about things?
  3. Do you think girls should be able to try out for boys’ sports teams?
  4. D.J. sometimes thinks of herself and her family as cows; in what ways?
  5. Brian is “lazy, spoiled, and full of himself,” according to D.J. But she still likes him. What qualities does Brian have that appeal to her?
  6. D.J. tries to keep her plans to try out for the football team a secret. Is this a good idea?
  7. Curtis, Amber, and D.J.’s mother are also keeping secrets. What does it mean to D.J. when she discovers them?
  8. Does D.J.’s life on a Wisconsin farm sound like it might be fun, or just hard? What are some pluses and minuses about her life?
  9. Brian admires the way D.J.’s dad is so hard on her and her brothers. D.J. thinks her dad is sometimes “a real jerk.” What do you think about the way Mr. Schwenk treats his kids?
  10. Would Brian and D.J. be better off as boyfriend and girlfriend, or just friends? Why?

If you liked this book, try

  • Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer
  • Deadline by Chris Crutcher
  • Girls Got Game: Sports Stories and Poems edited by Sue Macy
  • Terrier by Tamora Pierce

Created in part with funds granted by the Oregon State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.