Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock is one instance where you really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. It’s easy to find complaints about the book’s first impressions, but inside is a real and sometimes raw story of a fifteen year old girl from Red Bend Wisconsin who begins to see her life and her family in a different light.

While readers will find many themes throughout the book, one of the predominant ones looks at  talking versus staying silent. D.J. comes from a family that doesn’t talk. They don’t talk about why D.J. has taken over all the dairy farm responsibilities, why she flunked English last year, how her two older brothers have been estranged from the family, and they most certainly don’t talk about how they feel.

An unexpected friendship with Brian, a boy from Red Bend’s rival high school, gets D.J. thinking about some things. A lot of things. And the more she thinks, the more she realizes that talking might not be such a bad thing after all.

I enjoyed D.J. and her story and would recommend Dairy Queen to anyone looking for an engaging story of friendship, love, and football from the perspective of a likable teen who knows she’s not perfect and isn’t afraid to admit it.


Responding to Literature

Here is a possible writing assignment you might receive after reading Dairy Queen:dairy queen response

“When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.”

Throughout the book, D.J. learns how to speak in a family where silence isn’t just golden, it’s expected.

What are some reasons it can be hard to talk about things that really matter? Give specific examples from the book to support your answer.



The assignment tells you what your essay will be about – reasons it can be hard to talk. Since you’ll have to give specific examples from the book, start with the book when writing your essay.

Think about the times D.J. and other characters have trouble talking. Make a list.

Once you have at least five examples from the book, ask yourself why it’s hard to talk in each of the examples on your list. Then write each reason down next to the example.


Choose the three or four best reasons for not talking from your list. Put them in order from the least important to the most important. This is the order you will present them in your essay.


Each of your three reasons will get its own paragraph in the body of your essay. In each paragraph, 1) state the reason it is hard to talk 2) say your reason again in a different way, explain it, or paraphrase it 3) give the example from the book that shows this reason.

Once you have written your body paragraphs, it’s time to write your introduction and conclusion. Since you are writing about fiction, starting your introduction with an anecdote from the book is a good choice. Follow that with the book’s title and author. End your introduction with your thesis.

For your conclusion, restate your thesis using words different from those you wrote in your introduction. Remind your reader of the three reasons it can be hard to talk that you wrote about earlier, then go back to the story you started with in your introduction and wrap it up with a full circle conclusion.


Once you have written the first draft of your essay, take at least a day before looking at it again so you can see it with fresh eyes. When you go back to your essay, make sure each of your body paragraphs starts with a transitional phrase, looks at one reason (and only one) it is hard to talk, and gives an example from the book. Note any areas where you need more explanation or where your writing is confusing.


Take a few minutes to correct anything you noted during your editing phase. Also look for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and any trouble areas you tend to have in your writing assignments.


Possible Essay Plan

Thesis: It is hardest to talk when your emotions are high in any given situation.

Example 1: It’s hard to talk when you are afraid of someone’s reaction. Curtis doesn’t tell D.J.  he wants to be a dentist because he is afraid she will laugh at him.

Example 2: It’s hard to talk when you are angry at someone. D.J. won’t talk to her dad because she blames him for pushing her older brothers out of the family.

Example 3: It’s hard to talk when you feel guilty. D.J. won’t talk to her brother Bill because she feels guilty for choosing her dad’s side during their argument.

Example 4: It’s hard to talk when your feelings are one-sided. D.J. doesn’t tell Brian that she likes him because she thinks there is no way he can like her back.