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Murphy, Julie.  
New York: Balzer + Bray, 2015

(7 booktalks)

Click on the book to read Amazon reviews

Booktalk #1

“Willowdean.  Cashier, Dolly Parton enthusiast, and resident fat girl.”  This is how Willowdean Dickson (nicknamed “Dumplin’” by her mother) introduces herself to her cute new co-worker, Bo.

Willowdean lives in Clover City, Texas - famous for one thing – the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant.  Willowdean doesn’t want anything to do with the pageant that her former-beauty-queen mother helps run – until she needs to get her confidence back on track.  Dealing with the loss of her dear aunt, best friend troubles, and relationship issues, Willowdean shows Clover City what she’s made of in this fun novel by Julie Murphy.  (Oklahoma Sequoyah Award, 2017)

Booktalk #2

“It’s like how I notice some girls have big boobs or shiny hair or knobby knees. Those things are okay to say. But the word fat, the one that best describes me, makes lips frown and cheeks lose their color.” When you hear the word fat, what is your first reaction? To cringe and wince like it’s a forbidden curse word that people know exists but you just DON’T say? Do you think about those “last 10 or 20” pounds that made you rethink buying that dress you saw in the department store window? Well Willowdean Dickson is putting on the damn dress, a red one to be exact, whether it fits or not. Although not the textbook beauty queen her pageant director mom would want her to be, Willowdean has always seen her body as just that, a body that no one has the right to comment on but three people: she, herself, and her. But juggling a job at the local fast food joint, exploring a new relationship with “mysterious” private school boy Bo, and feelings of growing further from her best friend Ellen, begin to have Willowdean questioning herself and seeing what she thought would be her newfound confidence dwindle. Instead of deciding to be miserable or do the “this one time at fat camp” routine many of us all know and hate, Willowdean decides to join the Miss Clover City beauty pageant along with some other misfit candidates to prove to herself and others that one girl deserves to wear a crown, a form fitting dress, and love herself just as much as any other. This book is one sure to make you nose exhale, laugh out loud, and bring any other form of joy you could imagine from embarking on a journey of finding one’s confidence and self-love no matter what your shape, size, or what you look like. (Prepared by: Vanessa Kopp, Sangaree Intermediate School, , South Carolina Young Adult Book Award, 2018)

Booktalk #3

Willowdean Dickson is a very confident plus-size Texas teen with a love for all things Dolly Parton. She has a best friend (Ellen) who is her other half, a mother who loves her but doesn't always understand her, and she used to have her Aunt Lucy, a fellow Dolly Parton fan and one of Willowdean's greatest supporters. However, over the course of one summer, Willowdean is feeling left behind by Ellen, and begins sneaking around with Bo, the cute private-school boy who works with her. By the end of the summer, Willowdean is hiding things from Ellen and her mom, along with nursing new found doubts and insecurities about her physical self. Her world slowly implodes on itself as she breaks up with Bo (feeling as if she is a dirty secret) and tries to find herself again, Willowdean enters the local beauty pageant, the same one her mom won back in the day and currently directs. Despite the doubts of her former friends, her mom, and herself, Willowdean Dickson, with the help of Dolly Parton, a few drag queens, and some new friends who are also considered social misfits, rediscovers her self-confidence and realizes that she has always been a knockout!  (Georgia Peach Book Award for Teen Readers 2017-2018 Nominees )

Booktalk #4

Willowdean Dickson is not your typical beauty queen. Living in Clover City, a town that is home to one of the oldest beauty pageants in Texas, and with a former beauty queen for a mother, Willowdean navigates being a “fat girl” in this world with humor, confidence, and a lot of sass. When that confidence in herself is shaken, Willowdean decides participating in the pageant is the only way to get her confidence back. With help from an unlikely group of contestants and Dolly Parton, Willowdean embarks on a journey that will change how she and her town define what makes a beauty queen beautiful. (Connecticut Nutmeg Book Award nominee, 2018)

Booktalk #5

Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked...until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back. Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any girl does. (New Hampshire Flume Teen Award, 2018)

Booktalk #6

Dumplin’, Go Big or Go Home, by Julie Murphy is a contemporary realistic fiction novel about Willowdean Dickson. Willow lives in a small Texas town and works a fast food restaurant with a hot guy from the expensive private school across town. Bo is everything Willow is not. He’s wealthy, handsome and popular. But Willow is so focused on all the things she isn’t, she keeps sabotaging her relationship with Bo. It’s understandable that she only sees herself as a “Big” girl when her mother is constantly on her back to lose weight. Calling her Dumplin’ because of her size. As an act of defiance Willow signs up for the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet beauty pageant. What started as an act to get back at her mother turns into a life changing event for Willow and other non-traditionally beautiful girls at her school. But the beauty pageant teaches Willow something really important. She is good enough to be with Bo. All she has to do is convince him that she believes it. (Read page 75 to page break on 77.) (Nickie Travis, Teacher-Librarian Lindbergh High School, Renton, WA , Evergreen Teen Book Award 2017-18)

Booktalk #7

Willowdean’s mom runs the local beauty pageant because she is a former winner. Willowdean and her mom don’t agree on a lot, especially her pet name, Dumplin’, since it resembles her body shape a little too much. While working her job, she meets Bo, high school basketball star. Much to Will’s surprise, Bo likes her, but this makes her begin to doubt herself which she has never done. To gain back her confidence, she decides to enter the Miss Clover City Beauty Pageant along with a few other new friends who also don’t fit in the traditional beauty pageant mold. (Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award, Rosie Award, 2018)

SUBJECTS:     Beauty contests -- Fiction.
                        Dating (Social customs) -- Fiction.
                        Friendship -- Fiction.
                        Overweight persons -- Fiction.
                        Self-esteem -- Fiction.
                        Texas -- Fiction.

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