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When Life Gives You O.J.

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  1,326 Ratings  ·  152 Reviews
When her grandfather suggests that Zelly Fried show her parents she's ready for the responsibility of taking care of a dog by making a "practice dog" out of an orange juice jug, Zelly is not entirely sure about the idea.
ebook, 208 pages
Published June 14th 2011 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2011)
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Sep 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Katy Kelly
May 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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.
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.
Apr 17, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!!!!!!
Kristi Bernard
Oct 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Phil Jensen
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  Dunn
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
Jul 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.*
Jan 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
Jun 12, 2011 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.
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 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a fun story on the surface for young readers. But there is also so much to discuss and think about in this book. Author Erica Perl has done a wonderful job presenting important topics for families to discuss and given readers an interesting and easy way to bring those conversations to the table. Great family book discussion book.
Jun 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 :)
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nice story abou getting adjusted to a new home, waiting for something you want,and relationships with grandparents. All the characters are lovable and the grandfather is particularly well-drawn.
What a funny, sweet story. Cranky grandfather + fake dog + early adolescent angst = charming. And the touches of grief and understanding elevate it beyond quirky. Very nicely done.
Loved this book. Honest and the characters are realistic -- not always likable but always relatable. Humorous but deals with the issues head on. Great for that upper elementary reader.
Cute book with lots to talk about for a book club.
"I guess sometimes you don't know things about yourself until you do." pg 185
Franki Sibberson
A good middle grade novel. Deals with issues that are current and handled well for this age group. Lots of humor too which makes is a great read.
Edward Sullivan
A sweet, funny story with charming characters. The cover art is certainly among cutest of the year.
Brenda Kahn
Found it sweet and amusing.
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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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