Like many almost-eleven year olds, Zelda Fried wants a dog. That’s the easy way to express it, but it’s more like she aches for a dog. She’s pretty sure that’s never going to happen since her parents firmly believe she’s just not ready for the responsibility. Zelly’s eccentric grandfather, called Ace by everyone he knows, makes things interesting when he offers her a deal that he predicts will change their minds. Erica S. Perl brings this delightful story to life in her new middle grade novel When Life Gives You O.J.
Now that her family has moved from the big city of Brooklyn out to what feels like the absolute countryside in Vermont, it seems as if every single house around her claims at least one dog as a resident. Zelly’s pleas for a dog of their own have gone unfulfilled by her parents, but Ace convinces her that a round with a “practice dog” is the ticket to the real thing. What is a practice dog, you may be asking. Well, take an old orange juice jug, tie a leash to the handle, and voila! Practice dog!
As Zelly begins to care for her practice dog O.J. in all the same ways as a real dog, she is faced with dilemmas regarding friendship and family matters, with embarrassment and worry about how others perceive her at the forefront. Her emotions and challenges are really quite universal, even for kids who’ve never been in her unique position. There’s a tenderness to this story, even though it’s not overtly “emotional” in its telling.
As the parent to an almost-eleven year old myself, I can honestly attest to the authenticity of Zelly’s narrative voice. My son and I read this book together, one or two chapters each evening before bedtime, and there were multiple times when I could imagine the exact words uttered by Zelly coming out of my own son’s mouth, and the ways in which Perl presents Zelly’s state of mind, mannerisms and perspective are incredibly spot on.
I feel compelled to emphasize that regardless of the fact that this book features a female protagonist, it’s an entertaining and enjoyable book for readers of both genders. For my son, after reading the brief description and watching the book trailer, his immediate response was, “Yeah, I want to read that!”
Do you want to know if Zelly ever gets her real dog? We’re happy to have a “juicy” package for giveaway today. One copy of When Life Gives You O.J. and a themed water bottle and backpack could be yours! Please leave a comment here to be entered, U.S. addresses only. We’ll announce our winner on July 13.The giveaway is closed.
Dawn hopes that reading together will be a key to maintaining a positive relationship with her son as he enters adolescence. When she’s not reading, on her own or with her kids, Dawn’s blogging away at my thoughts exactly.