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When Life Gives You O.J.

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,136 Ratings  ·  144 Reviews
For years, 10-year-old Zelly Fried has tried to convince her parents to let her have a dog. After all, practically everyone in Vermont owns a dog, and it sure could go a long way helping Zelly fit in since moving there from Brooklyn. But when her eccentric grandfather Ace hatches a ridiculous plan involving a "practice dog" named OJ, Zelly's not so sure how far she's willi ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published June 14th 2011 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,411)
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Sep 06, 2011 Laurel rated it it was amazing
Okay, so here's what I've been puzzling over with this book-- it's a PRIME example of the sort of book that sometimes struggles to find the right readers, I think. Because it takes real risks, in quiet ways. It doesn't announce itself as "quirky" or "zany." It just is those things, because it is human, and humans are those things...

The book is charming, yes. It is funny. The characters are real. The writing is impossibly good, without requiring flourishes. It is smart and witty and SIMPLE. In th
Erica Perl
May 28, 2011 Erica Perl rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
OK, I'm biased (I'm the author), but here's what PW said:

"In this warm novel about family, friendship, and fitting in... Perl (Vintage Veronica) offers a refreshing take on the grandparent-grandchild rapport. The novel strikes an admirable balance of humor and pathos--at times in the same scene."

And called it "a must-read for all 8-12 year olds."

But don't just take our word for it, pour yourself a glass! Because O.J. isn't just for breakfast anymore.
Aug 17, 2011 Betsy rated it really liked it
Children's librarians can be neatly divided into two categories with relatively little difficulty. Basically, they either love and adore dogs and all things doggie related or they don't. I don't. I was never the kid begging her parents for a hound. I did not dream of fluffy golden retriever puppies or watch the Westminster Dog Show on television with undiluted envy. As an adult, I've maintained my canine-related neutrality admirably. I don't dislike dogs, but I don't obsess over them. So when fo ...more
Apr 16, 2012 Marcia rated it really liked it
Love the cover!
This is the story of Zelly Fried, an 11 year-old Jewish girl from Brooklyn recently transplanted with her family to Burlington, VT to live with her widowed grandfather Ace. Zelly really wants a dog and Ace proposes the practice dog--an empty OJ jug-that she walks, feeds and even practices with cleaning up after. Through OJ, she meets Jeremy, also Jewish, who becomes a quick friend. This is more the story of finding your place--being proud of your heritage, and learning responsibil
Picked this one up on the recommendation of a friend without really knowing what it was about. Zelly is ten years old and has moved to Vermont from Brooklyn with her family. Her grandmother has passed away and they have moved to live with her grandfather. I enjoyed how Perl dealt with several issues - fitting in, friendships, longing for something, relationships with family members, and more. A very relatable book for the age group I teach.
Katy Kelly
May 28, 2011 Katy Kelly rated it it was amazing

I loved this book. Zelly, like a lot of 10 year olds, is feeling that life has given her a sack lemons. Her family left NY to move to Vermont and the only good that could come of it is that she could finally have a dog of her own. But her parent nix the plan. Luckily, her wacky grandfather has a wacky idea. To prove she's worthy she creates a practice dog, named O.J. after the carton that makes up his body. A lovely, entertaining read.
Apr 17, 2012 Sophie rated it liked it
This book is about a girl that really wants a dog and her parents will not agree, so they give her a empty gallon of orange juice and tell her that is her dog. Evreyday she drags it for a walk, feeds it, and takes it to the bathroom just like a real dog. This book was funny and a great story idea.
Nov 01, 2015 Leo rated it it was amazing
This book is AMAZING!!! I love it because a girl has to do a bunch of crazy stuff just in order to get a dog. IT'S SO CRAZY!!! That's basically it but be sure to STAY AWESOME!!!!!!
Mary Ann
Zelly Fried wants a dog more than anything, but her parents aren't convinced. When her eccentric grandpa Ace leaves her a note tied to an old orange juice jug, she's the one who isn't quite convinced. Ace has cooked up a plan for Zelly to have a "practice dog" to prove to her parents that she really is ready to take on the responsibilities of owning a dog. Will Zelly be able to do this? She really does want a dog. But she's sure that she will die of embarrassment "walking" an old orange juice ju ...more
Aug 14, 2011 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, middle-grade
Zelly Fried moves from Brooklyn to Vermont with her family to support her aging grandfather. More than anything, Zelly wants a dog. Her grandfather, Ace, convinces her to use an orange juice bottle as a practice dog. The rest of the novel tells how Zelly makes friends, adjusts to life in Vermont, and builds a relationship with her sometimes difficult grandfather.

This middle grade novel reminded me very much of the Kate Messner's The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. Both novels include strong girls w
Kristi Bernard
Oct 08, 2011 Kristi Bernard rated it it was amazing
Zelda Fried, pronounced freed, wants a dog, wants to go to camp Sonrise with her best friend Allie, and she wants to move back to her old neighborhood. That's quite a bit for an almost eleven year old going int the sixth grade.

When Zelly asks her parents if she can go to camp with her best friends, the answer was no, although her parents congratulated her for making a good case. The problems is they've recently moved to Vermont to a new house. You see, she recently lost her grandmother whom she
Phil Jensen
Jan 09, 2016 Phil Jensen rated it liked it
First of all, I am grateful to Erica S. Perl for writing a book with a non-Holocaust Jewish protagonist. There are just not enough of those. This, Dave At Night, and Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself are the only ones I know of.

Second, the book is good, if a little predictable. The concept of the OJ jug as a practice dog was fun, and the supporting characters were lively enough to keep things interesting. I am reading this book with some of my 6th grade students, and they are all enjoying it
Susan P
Zelly has always wanted a dog, but her parents aren't interested. After her grandmother dies the family moves to Vermont from New York to live with Zelly's maternal grandfather. Ace is quite the character - fun to read about but not so fun to live with. Then Ace comes up with a brilliant plan: Zelly needs to show her parents that she is responsible enough for a dog of her own. To do this, Ace suggests that she treat an old orange juice jug like a dog - feeding it, walking it, and cleaning up aft ...more
Sep 09, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it
The premise of this book is great--Zelly and her grandfather hatch a plan to convince her folks to let her get a dog, she'll take care of a practice dog made out of an empty O.J. bottle (including feeding, walking, and picking up pretend poo). However the book is not as funny as the premise--it is actually a much more serious book about relationships and family, responsibility and death. It captures the way that kids really do relate to people who are a lot older then they are--a little bit of f ...more
K. East
Sep 05, 2014 K. East rated it it was ok
This was the first of the Sunshine State Young Reader nominee books that I have read this year, and I can only hope that the next 14 books go up from here. These books are meant for upper elementary kids so it's probably not fair that an adult is the reviewer. However, I found the main character, Zelly, and her grandfather, Ace, two of the most unlikeable characters I've run into in a long time. I appreciate that as the oldest child Zelly felt like her younger brother got all the accolades while ...more
Carolyn Arrington
Aug 01, 2014 Carolyn Arrington rated it liked it
This is a 2014-2015 Virginia Readers' Choice book for elementary students.

When 10 year old Zelly Fried moves from Brooklyn, N.Y. to Vermont she tries to fit in. In her multi-cultural neighborhood in Brooklyn it wasn't hard but in Vermont she and her family stand out. They moved to Vermont to be with Ace, Zelly's grandfather, after his wife dies. Zelly desperately wants a dog but her parents aren't ready to make that committment. Zelly's loud, bossy grandfather comes up with a plan. He creates a
Jun 28, 2011 Shannon rated it really liked it
Charming, adorable, cute! The chapters are a tad long, so it might take an 8-12 year old some time to finish one. One chapter a night might be asking a lot for an 8 year old. But very adorable book! I LOVED the dictionary at the end! And I have to admit that when I read she finally got her puppy, I teared up. I loved the paw prints at the beg of each chapter and the lil bones!
Zelly was persistant with O.J. and it paid off!

*I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.*
Dec 31, 2011 Jennifer rated it really liked it
I loved this little book. A wonderful chapter book for younger children (second-fourth grade is where I see it). This is the story of Zelly and her grandfather and a discarded plastic jug that becomes Zelly's "practice dog." Themes of family, friendship, and responsibility run through this story. Will appeal to boys and girls alike. Also reminds me that we don't see too many books with young Jewish protagonists outside of Holocaust literature.
Victoria Whipple
I did not want to read this book because I was so turned off by the cover art. But, it was the only MCBA book on my shelf as I was leaving for the weekend, and I needed something to read. This book turned out to be so much better than its cover! Like many 10-almost-11 year olds, Zelly want a dog. Her grandfather convinces her that a great way to prove that she is ready for a dog is to have a "practice dog", in the form of an empty orange juice carton. The story takes place over the summer before ...more
Feb 10, 2013 Kathy rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 10, 2015 Lorna rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! A great look at what is irritating yet lovable about our families through the relationship of Zelly and her grandfather, Ace. You laugh and you cry at the evolution of the relationship during the course of the book. The additional messages about challenges and changes in friendships make this a great middle grades read for kids 9-12. I'd highly recommend it!
Oct 19, 2014 Carrie rated it really liked it
Sweet kid's book for book club that is true to many issues 11 year olds face: really wanting a dog, missing a deceased grandparent, fear of public embarassment, needing to fit in, and putting up with a younger sibling. Zelly really wants a dog, so her Grandpa (Ace, who talks in CAPITAL letter as such a force) challenges her to take on a "practice" dog -- an empty OJ gallon jug. To feed it, she must fill it with kibble, then walk it, and empty it as essential poop scooping duty. Of course this is ...more
Judi Paradis
Sep 25, 2014 Judi Paradis rated it liked it
Zelly's family moved from New York City to Vermont after her grandmother died, in order to keep an eye on her rather difficult (somewhat crazy) grandfather Ace. Ace is a former judge who has very strong opinions about everything. Zelly desperately wants a dog, her parents say no. So Ace convinces her to make a pretend dog out of a gallon juice jug and take care of it (walking, feeding, even picking up after it--you'll see) to show her parents that she's capable. Of course, this makes her a bit o ...more
Sam Musher
Delightful! I adored Zelly's big Yiddish grandpa, having had one of my own (though far more serious than Borscht Belt). Exploring religion with Zelly and Jeremy, whose families have different versions of Judaism, was powerful -- especially right after reading The Whole Story of Half a Girl, with yet another version of Judaism. Laugh-out-loud funny, touching, deft navigation of the common middle grade themes of "how do I own my love for my embarrassing friend/family member?" and "what does it mea ...more
Dec 11, 2011 Angie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: juvenile-fic
My favorite part of this story was actually the Grandpa ... "Ace."

In my head everything he said was shouted. Kind of funny because neither of my grandpas shouted. It just really made the character that he was always so blustery and loud.

Zelly was an interesting character as well, though. Good one to give kids.
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
I wasn't exactly sure what the book was about when I picked it up but I loved who Perl pulled together this story about Zelly and her desire for a puppy along with wonderful elements of friendship and family and does it all well. Will add this to my list of read alouds for Second and Third grade this year.
Mar 16, 2015 Minervaking rated it really liked it
Zelda has wanted a dog for a long time, but it doesn’t look like her parents are going to let her. Her grandfather, Ace, comes up with a plan: use a “practice dog” to show her parents that she is responsible enough for a real dog. Zelda has to take O.J., a plastic gallon juice jug, for a walk, feed him and clean up after him. She is embarrassed to have her friends see her with O.J. and begins to resent her grandfather for making her look like a fool when her parents don’t seem to be impressed. T ...more
Nov 01, 2014 Georgene rated it liked it
Ten-year-old Zelly has always wanted a dog. When she moves with her family to Vermont to help out her grandfather, Zelly has trouble fitting in, and she just knows that having her own dog would make everything so much better. But her parents do not agree and refuse to get her a dog. Then her grandfather suggests that she try a practice dog - an empty OJ jug that she takes for "walks", "feeds" and takes care of. Surely her parents will see how responsible she is and agree to get her a real dog. E ...more
Narrated by Abigail Revasch. Zelly longs for a dog now that her family has moved to Vermont from Brooklyn to live with her widowed grandpa Ace. Ace suggests she care for a fake dog (made from an orange juice bottle, hence the title) in order to show she can be a responsible dog-owner. It's an embarrassing project but will it get her a real dog? Revasch gives this the lively treatment it merits. Her Zelly is girlish while her Ace comes off as a sometimes intimidating crank. But this is more than ...more
Jun 22, 2011 Brooke rated it really liked it
Really cute book. I appreciated how real the characters were and how believable the issues she was dealing with. I would recommend for 8-12 year old girls, or a fun quick summer read for the parent :)
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Erica S. Perl is the author of the O.J. books: WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU O.J. (Sydney Taylor Award Notable Book, Amazon Best Book, multiple state book lists including MN, FL, VA, VT and RI) and ACES WILD.

She is also the author of many popular picture books, including DOTTY, CHICKEN BUTT!, and GOATILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS. A crowd-pleasing presenter dedicated to reaching all readers, she is available
More about Erica S. Perl...

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