Reviews for Beef Princess of Practical County

Booklist Reviews 2009 April #1
""Calves don t need names," Libby s dad warns as she chooses her first two steers to show at the Practical County Fair. Yet in her enthusiasm and determination to bring a ribbon home to Ryansmeade, the family farm and cattle ranch, Libby immediately names the animals Piggy and Mule--and falls in love. How will she ever sell them at auction now? First-time novelist Houts paints an idyllic yet authentic picture of farm life as she takes Libby and her family through the ups and downs of cattle raising and fair-showing with sly humor and a flair for description and characterization. Rural readers and their urban cousins alike will laugh at the Darling sisters--Precious, Lil, and Ohma--who are fine villains, all, and they will cry with Libby as she leads her prize steers to slaughter. Welcome another talented YA author to the fold."

Kirkus Reviews 2009 March #1
Set in rural Indiana, this refreshing tale chronicles the experience of Libby, a well-grounded 12-year-old who raises and then shows a steer at the annual county fair. That's the fun part of the fair for Libby, the middle child in a cattle-ranching family. The less fun part is the Beef Princess pageant she ambivalently enters, a contest that pits her against a beautiful but obnoxious girl, one of the Darling sisters. And the terrible part is the knowledge that the steer she's carefully tended will be auctioned off, sold to the highest bidder for meat. That's the practical reality Libby has to come to terms with at the Practical County Fair, and Houts does a creditable job of making her journey believable. This coming-of-age story is fueled by the passionate soul-searching of its authentically drawn protagonist. It's a minor misfortune that the subplots concerning Libby's competition with the Darling sisters have holes the size of longhorns. Still, readers will be rooting for Libby as she makes difficult choices about both her steer and her life. (Fiction. 10 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2009 June

Gr 4-7--Libby, 12, hails from a farm family that raises beef cattle in rural Indiana. Continuing in the Ryan tradition, she plans to compete in the steer competition at the annual Practical County Fair. The novel opens in September, when she picks two newborn calves. When Piggy, the favored one, injures his leg and must be slaughtered for beef, she is crushed. She had raised Piggy and Mule as pets, against her elders' advice, and now turns to vegetarianism. Libby's mother, meanwhile, has been urging her to enter the Beef Princess pageant at the fair, arguing that she would be a far better representative of the county than the rude, self-centered Darling sisters, cloyingly named Precious, Lil, and Ohma. Libby does enter the pageant, trading her holey jeans for a thrift-store dress, but another contestant wins. True satisfaction comes when Libby and Mule earn the Reserve Grand Champion in the steer competition, bringing pride to the Ryans and their farm. In victory Libby savors a delicious cheeseburger with her family and realizes that she has learned something about saying goodbye to animals she loves. Her narration inclines toward telling rather than showing the action, and several characters are not fleshed out, yet this first novel provides a robust glimpse of Midwestern farm culture while unabashedly championing the taste of quality beef.--Susan W. Hunter, Riverside Middle School, Springfield, VT

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