An eighth-grader rediscovers the importance of family in this debut.
Since being left as a baby on Pop’s doorstep, Diggy Lawson has been content living on a farm in rural Minnesota. He raises steers for competition at the state fair and has surrounded himself with 4-H friends. Diggy has a secret crush on senior 4-H’er July. Everything changes the day fellow eighth-grader Wayne Graf is left at Diggy’s house, dropped off by his drunken father three weeks after his mother’s funeral. As it turns out, Pop is also Wayne’s biological father. While Pop and Wayne negotiate their relationship, Diggy spends time with his steer, Joker, and tries to ignore the changes caused by Wayne’s presence. Then Wayne decides that the best way to escape his mother’s family and the alcoholic Mr. Graf is to raise his own steer and win the $12,000 Grand Champion prize. Once Wayne convinces July that he is serious about competing, he soon has a steer of his own. Diggy is left questioning his relationship with Wayne, his 4-H friends and even his dad. Petruck uses research and her own experience as a former member of 4-H to flesh out the narrative, sometimes letting factual details and livestock lingo overshadow it and its universal themes of family, friendship and acceptance.
Humor sustains this look at real life in the heartland. (author’s note, glossary) (Fiction. 9-13)