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Heaven is paved with Oreos

Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ©2013.
Physical Description:
201 pages ; 22 cm
Fourteen-year-old Sarah keeps a journal of her pilgrimage to Rome with her eccentric grandmother, Z, her evolving relationship with best friend Curtis, and daily conversations with Curtis's sister and star athlete, D.J.
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On Order



Fourteen-year-old Sarah Zorn intends to spend the Wisconsin summer with her "boyfriend" Curtis, waiting for a dead calf named Boris to decompose in time for the science fair. Her plans upend, however, when her fake-boyfriend strategy goes seriously awry just as her hippie Grandma Z invites her on a last-minute Roman holiday. As Sarah explores Italy's ancient wonders, she can't stop "boy-liking" Curtis . . . or puzzling over her grandmother's odd behavior. Written as Sarah's journal, this satisfying middle grade novel navigates the murky waters of first love, friendship, and family with heart and good humor.

Author Notes

Catherine Gilbert Murdock was born in Charleston, South Carolina and grew up on a small farm in Litchfield, Connecticut. She attended Bryn Mawr College and the University of Pennsylvania. She writes young adult books including Princess Ben, Dairy Queen, The Off Season, and Front and Center.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-9-Beloved characters from Red Bend, Wisconsin, return in this funny and sweet coming-of-age story from the author of Dairy Queen (Houghton Harcourt, 2006). It's the summer before high school, and Sarah Zorn is struggling to define her relationship with her best friend, Curtis Schwenk (D.J.'s younger brother). Does she "boy-like" Curtis, or just like him as a friend and fellow science nerd? When her free-spirited Grandma Z offers to take her to Rome, Sarah jumps at the chance to escape her small-town drama and see the wider world. It's part pilgrimage, part trip-down-memory-lane for Z, and it turns out to be much more than Sarah bargained for. In the Eternal City, she grows up a little and finds space and perspective to articulate the kind of girl she wants to be-a girl like D.J., who serves as a role model throughout the book. She also figures out, of course, if she boy-likes Curtis. Sarah's naivete and geeky charm will make readers laugh and love her. Her narrative voice, a winning blend of humor, enthusiasm, and insecurity, will resonate strongly with tween girls, and the journal format will also appeal.-Emma Burkhart, Springside School, Philadelphia, PA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Murdock returns to Red Bend, Wis., the setting of Dairy Queen and its sequels, with this mild romance/family drama that skews to a younger audience. Sarah Zorn, 14, has been best friends with Curtis Schwenk (the younger brother of Dairy Queen's D.J. Schwenk) since seventh grade, when they started "fake-going-out" to dispel ongoing comments about their friendship. The summer before Sarah and Curtis start high school, their relationship is in flux. Amid this confusion, Sarah's hippie-holdover grandmother, Z, whisks her away for a week in Italy, without revealing the real reason for the trip, which involves a fling Z had 40-some years earlier. Sarah tells the story in journal format in a voice that can be oddly young: she describes herself as "not a hair-caring kind of girl" and wonders whether she "boy-likes" Curtis. Sarah's grandmother is funny and flawed, but her adult concerns overwhelm the plot, and the nature of their Roman holiday-a tour of seven of the city's most important churches-might make this a tough sell to the intended readership. Ages 10-14. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Narrator Sarah, a diehard science nerd, adores her best friend Curtis, whom readers may remember as the laconic younger brother of female athlete DJ Schwenk (Dairy Queen, rev. 5/06). But no one at school will believe that they are just friends. Tired of fighting a losing battle, the pair initiates the Brilliant Outflanking Strategy of pretending to be dating, only to have it backfire when both start to feel more than just friendship for each other. In the middle of that mess, Sarahs unconventional grandmother invites her on a trip to Italy, where they retrace a famous pilgrimage and Sarah learns some uncomfortable family secrets. Both narrative threads are compelling, but they dont entirely mesh, and readers who tune in for the romance, or to revisit the Schwenk family, will be disappointed by how little page time Curtis actually gets. Despite this disjointedness, Sarahs voice is tart and inquisitive, and her observations make the pilgrimage come alive. The family backstory, meanwhile, raises interesting questions about parental responsibilities and womens roles over several generations. Not Murdocks strongest, but readers with an interest in travel or in family stories will find much to enjoy. claire e. gross (c) Copyright 2013. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Fourteen-year-old Sarah discovers first love and family secrets in this sweet-as-a-cookie Dairy Queen companion for slightly younger readers. Sarah Zorn, D.J. Schwenk's brother Curtis' science-fair partner, had bit parts in the Dairy Queen trilogy, but she takes center stage in Murdock's latest. Even though it's summer, Sarah and Curtis are preparing for their ninth-grade science-fair project: waiting for Boris, a calf born dead, to decay. In narrator Sarah's mind, they are just friends. Curtis, with typical Schwenk communication problems, tells Sarah he wants a real girlfriend just as Sarah's hippie grandmother, Z, invites her to Rome. In a series of journals, introduced by black-and-white images of Rome, Sarah describes both the pilgrimage to seven churches of Rome--a pilgrimage that Z had not quite completed 46 years before as an art student--and her growing awareness of "boy-liking" feelings for Curtis. Advice from D.J., who has a minor but comforting chauffeuring role, helps Sarah mature, as does having to be responsible for the increasingly erratic Z as reasons for her pilgrimage become evident. This coming-of-age novel with an endearingly nave narrator unfortunately bogs down midway under the weight of Roman church history. The cover, cleverly connecting Oreos and cows, will attract preteens. Fans of the trilogy will be delighted to revisit both the Schwenks and Red Bend, Wisc. (Fiction. 10-14)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Sarah Zorn and her similarly science-minded friend, Curtis, utilize the Brilliant Outflanking Strategy to prevent classmates from teasing them about dating (which they're not). It's counterintuitive but effective: tell everyone they're a couple so that Emily Friend (or Emily Enemy, as Sarah calls her) leaves them alone. But, soon, Curtis doesn't like the lying, and Sarah's quirky, yoga-loving grandmother, Z, insists she travel with her from Wisconsin to Rome to complete a pilgrimage to seven churches begun 46 years ago. Along the way, family secrets are revealed, and Sarah has her own realizations about love. This is a companion to Murdock's Dairy Queen (2006), but for younger readers, and features D. J. in a smaller but still important role, as Curtis' sister and someone Sarah admires. Sarah is 14, heading into ninth grade, but she sounds and acts much younger, which can be distracting. And though the scenes at the Roman churches feel long, ultimately, this is a sweet story about family and love, which should appeal to tween readers of Wendy Mass.--Kelley, Ann Copyright 2010 Booklist