Steering Toward Normal
Written by Rebecca Petruck
Competition is a part of life now for kids. And this is just as true in a rural setting as it is in the city. Where urban children learn to dance or do gymnastics or play soccer early, country kids might raise steers or sheep. This is the backdrop for this new novel for fourth graders and above. Another theme to which urban kids can also relate is that of family. Thirteen-year-old Diggy lives with his father, Pop, after his mother abandoned him as a baby. His mother never married Pop, but no one doubts Pop is his biological father. Diggy’s classmate, Wayne, loses his mother to cancer, and it’s revealed that Wayne’s dad may not be his biological father. Is Wayne Diggy’s half brother? Wayne ends up living with Pop and Diggy while Wayne’s dad works on his alcoholism. The two boys fight like brothers and raise steers together for the 4-H fair. Diggy is expected to win Grand Champion at the state fair. Wayne insists Diggy needs to find his own mother, though he really doesn’t want to.
Rural kids will identify with all the details about the steers, and urban kids will learn about animals and see how farm animals can be loved just like their own pets. There is plenty of information about 4-H and cattle at the end of the book. The pace is lively and light. Pop and Diggy love to play pranks, and April Fools’ Day is a major holiday at their house.