Just in time for county fair season (okay, just past our county fair), I read The Beef Princess of Practical County (Scholastic 2010) by Michelle Houts. If the county fair is the highlight of your summer–whether you complete 4-H posters, show animals, compete in the fair pageant, or just take it all in, you will enjoy Libby’s story.
This is Libby’s first time to show steers at the Practical County Fair in Nowhere, IN, and she is determined that she can live up to the Ryan family name and follow in her older brother’s footsteps. She picks out two promising calves and works to get them show-ready. She is less thrilled with her mother’s insistence that she also compete in the Beef Princess pageant. As the fair draws closer, the reality of the pageant and livestock auction loom ever larger, giving rise to conflicting emotions that Libby struggles with.
I found Libby to be a likeable and believable character. She may not always think through her decisions–like declaring herself a vegetarian at a family cookout–but her heart is in the right place. She soaks in her experiences and conversations to figure out her own place in the Ryan family tradition. I love the fact that her family is supportive even when her choices are surprising.
Other characters provide much humor as well. Little sister Frannie has two imaginary grandchildren named Eugene and Esmerelda Emily. Best friend Carol Ann doesn’t hesitate to tell it like it is. The Darling sisters–Precious, Lil, and Ohma–don’t miss an opportunity to antagonize Libby.
Open the pages to join Libby and the rest of Practical County for the biggest event of the year. Since our fair is already past for this summer, I’ll have to wait for the scoop of homemade ice cream, my favorite part of the fair. What is your favorite part of the fair?