Cindy: My 7th and 8th grade girls love Murdock’s novel Dairy Queen that features D.J. Schwenk and her football-crazy dairy-farming Wisconsin family, so I was delighted to see this new companion novel that I can offer my 6th graders. Heaven Is Paved with Oreos (Houghton Mifflin 2013) introduces Sarah Zorn, best friends with D.J.’s younger brother, Curtis. Sarah is a science geek and she and Curtis are working during the summer on their upcoming science fair project: Decomposing a dead calf on the Schwenk farm. Stay with me.
Sarah and Curtis spend so much time together that their classmates hound them about being a couple. Their denials fall on deaf ears and, finally, Sarah comes up with what she calls the “Brilliant Outflanking Strategy.” The next time she is questioned about her relationship with Curtis, she lies and says that, yes, they are dating. The interest in them drops to nothing and the friends are free to resume their platonic friendship without constant harassment.
Just as things get complicated at home, Grandma decides to take Sarah to Italy to help her complete a previously attempted pilgrimage to a series of cathedrals. There’s more to the story there, just as there is more to the story with the relationship between Curtis and Sarah.
D.J. plays a minor role in this novel, but it’s fun to see her through Sarah’s eyes, and as I mentioned, this will be a great way to draw new readers to Murdock’s fun series. There’s a ready audience for smart, innocent tween novels that help navigate the complicated world of relationships.
Lynn: European setting AND more about one of my favorite characters, D.J. Schwenk – I’m in! D.J., as Cindy, notes, has a small role but I still enjoyed meeting her again and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the main characters here, Sarah and Curtis. Murdock does fun things with Sarah’s dogged jaunt around the many churches of Rome with her eccentric grandmother. I love Sarah’s commentary, having thought some of the same things on the hot July days we visited that amazing city. But I think the element I liked the best about this charming book was the portrayal of the relationship between Sarah and Curtis. This was so on target. The current culture so often pushes young people along far faster than they are really comfortable going and it is wonderfully refreshing to have this story of young teens content to move slowly. I for one would love to have more about Sarah and Curtis. And, you know, I think it’s about time to plan another trip to Rome! There’s one or two of the churches we missed.