In his eighth grade year, Diggy Lawson raises a steer for a 4-H competition while coming to terms with the discovery that his father has another son.
This wonderful upper middle grade novel tells a touching family story, but without drowning its readers in sentimentality. Diggy’s love for his father, his steer, and later, for Wayne, the brother he never knew about, are the driving forces of the story, presented realistically and with a heavy dose of humor. The story is structured based on the growth of Diggy’s steer, which helps the plot unfold naturally and logically, and Diggy himself is such a well-rounded character, the reader sympathizes with him instantly and finds many reasons to root for him, both in the 4-H contest, and in life. The supporting characters in this book are a colorful bunch, the kind of characters who could make readers want to live inside this book. Chief among these is Pop, Diggy’s delightfully immature 30-something dad whose parenting style involves more practical jokes than true discipline.
Steering Toward Normal, while especially appealing to 4-H members, is by no means restricted to kids who raise their own animals. Diggy’s emotional journey as he makes peace with his dad’s past, his mother’s choices, and his new brother’s presence, is a story any reader can appreciate, and one well worth making available for readers ages 11-14.
Read-alikes for Steering Toward Normal include Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park and Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.