Petruck, Rebecca. Steering Toward Normal
May 13th 2014
by Amulet Books
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Diggy Lawson likes his life in Minnesota-- he lives with Pop, having been abandoned by his mother as a baby, but he enjoys living in the country and raising steers for 4H and the state fair. When Wayne Graf is suddenly dumped at his house by Mr. Graf, who (reeling from the recent death of Mrs. Graf) thinks that Wayne is really Pop's son as well, thinks don't go quite as well. While Wayne has a huge extended family who would like to take him in, Wayne (who is actually Pop's biological son) wants to stay with the Lawsons until Mr. Graf can get his alcoholism under control. Wayne also decides to raise a steer, so the boys are pitted against each other. For the most part, they get along okay, playing pranks on Pop and working with their steers, but Wayne is determined to find Diggy's mother, since he still misses his own so much. This causes tension between the two, but they manage to work out their differences and learn a lot about what "family" really means.
Strengths: If you have students who are interested in the ins and outs of raising steers, this is the book. While I didn't grow up on a farm, I grew up with lots of cousins involved in 4H and spent a goodly amount of time hanging around the cow barns at the Canfield Fair. Spot on details. I also was intrigued by the family situation, and enjoyed the book tremendously. The cover is fabulous.
Weaknesses: I'm not sure I have the demographic who will be interested in this. It would suit 8th grade boys who want a funny book with more serious issues, but I'm not sure the farm setting will resonate. Turn Left at the Cow continues to circulate though, so I may consider buying this.