WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU O.J. by Erica S. Perl (knopf 2011) is a perfect middle grade novel about family, friends, pets, and bullies. How does the author manage to keep all of these concepts from dragging the novel into a "problem" novel situation? By creating lively characters who sing off the pages. Meet Zelly Fried (pronouncd FREED thank you) and her family which includes one cantankerous, loud grandfather who prefers to be called Ace. Zelly wants a dog but her parents tell her she is not ready for the responsibility. Ace decides to give Zelly a practice dog in the form of an empty orange juice jug. She is to walk it several times a day and to police its "business." He tells Zelly that this will prove to her parents that she can take care of a real pet. About all OJ gets Zelly is a lot of teasing from her neighbors and even her best friend. <316>
It is a summer of changes: Zelly's best friend is away at camp, a new boy moves into the neighborhood, and Zelly is not dealing well with the changes. Perl gives readers plenty of laughs and a good dose of Yiddish words (there is a glossary at the end) in this funny and introspective look at growing up and fitting in.