Mode

kid

parent

When Life Gives You O.J.

by: Erica Perl  

Ages

9+
Zelly wants a dog more than anything. Her grandfather, Ace, has a crazy idea to convince her parents to let her get one. Can she go through with Ace’s embarrassing plan?
Ages 9+
Pages 240
Publisher Penguin Random House
Coming Aug 2020
Awards
Sydney Taylor Notable Book
School Library Journal Starred Review

Average Rating

214 Reviews
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What the Book is About

Ten-year-old Zelly Fried and her family live in Vermont with Zelly’s grandfather, “Ace” Greenberg. Ace is eccentric and in-your-face, and he has devised a plan to get Zelly the pet of her dreams: All she has to do is pretend that an old orange juice container is a dog. If she can feed and care for her “practice dog,” her parents may reward her hard work and responsible behavior by getting her a real one. The result is an engaging, contemporary story with lots of humor and an emphasis on the development of a close relationship between a girl and her grandfather.

Jewish Content & Values

  • Ace sprinkles his conversation with Yiddish words. He’s an old-timer who cares little for political correctness and uses words likes “shiksa” and “goyim” (much to the family’s embarrassment). All Yiddish words are explained in a kid-friendly glossary.
  • Zelly’s family is Jewish. They make a conscious decision not to send Zelly to her best friend’s church-run sleepaway camp.
  • Jewish practices are explored throughout the book; for example: going to synagogue, saying the Shema (an important Jewish prayer), and sitting shiva (a period of seven days of mourning when a family member has died).
  • Zelly repays cruelty with an act of chesed (kindness) when she loans the neighborhood bully a dime.
  • Zelly learns a life lesson when she embraces her inner chutzpah (a Yiddish word meaning personal courage or audacity) and learns to work hard for something she really wants.

Positive Role Models

  • Bubbles is Zelly’s grandmother, who dies before the story beginsZelly deeply loved Bubbles for her creativity and sparkle.  
  • Jeremy is Zelly’s new Jewish friend. He is not fazed by Zelly’s plan to get a new dog. He fights off the local bully and is someone who Zelly can talk to honestly and openly.
  • Ace is Zelly’s grandfather. He teaches her patience and that every problem has a creative solution.

Content Advisory

The characters get into a few scuffles in this book, though there is very little violence: A town bully picks on other kids and throws pennies, and there is a sleepover scene during which non-Jewish friends tease Zelly about whether Jeremy keeps kosher or wears “a little beanie” (yarmulke or kippah worn by religious Jews). Ace uses some Yiddish words that could be offensive, and, toward the end of the book, he has a heart attack and that causes anxiety regarding whether he will recover. 

Talk It Over!

Zelly has to work hard for something that she wants. Is there something you want that you are willing to work for? If so, how hard would you try to get it?  

More for You

Chelm stories are funny Jewish folktales that Ace loves to tell. Nobel Prize-winning Yiddish author Isaac Bashevis Singer helped make Chelm stories famous. Your family might enjoy When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw, a classic collection of humorous Chelm tales.

What the Book is About

What the Book is About

Ten-year-old Zelly Fried and her family live in Vermont with Zelly’s grandfather, “Ace” Greenberg. Ace is eccentric and in-your-face, and he has devised a plan to get Zelly the pet of her dreams: All she has to do is pretend that an old orange juice container is a dog. If she can feed and care for her “practice dog,” her parents may reward her hard work and responsible behavior by getting her a real one. The result is an engaging, contemporary story with lots of humor and an emphasis on the development of a close relationship between a girl and her grandfather.

Jewish Content & Values

  • Ace sprinkles his conversation with Yiddish words. He’s an old-timer who cares little for political correctness and uses words likes “shiksa” and “goyim” (much to the family’s embarrassment). All Yiddish words are explained in a kid-friendly glossary.
  • Zelly’s family is Jewish. They make a conscious decision not to send Zelly to her best friend’s church-run sleepaway camp.
  • Jewish practices are explored throughout the book; for example: going to synagogue, saying the Shema (an important Jewish prayer), and sitting shiva (a period of seven days of mourning when a family member has died).
  • Zelly repays cruelty with an act of chesed (kindness) when she loans the neighborhood bully a dime.
  • Zelly learns a life lesson when she embraces her inner chutzpah (a Yiddish word meaning personal courage or audacity) and learns to work hard for something she really wants.

Positive Role Models

  • Bubbles is Zelly’s grandmother, who dies before the story beginsZelly deeply loved Bubbles for her creativity and sparkle.  
  • Jeremy is Zelly’s new Jewish friend. He is not fazed by Zelly’s plan to get a new dog. He fights off the local bully and is someone who Zelly can talk to honestly and openly.
  • Ace is Zelly’s grandfather. He teaches her patience and that every problem has a creative solution.

Content Advisory

The characters get into a few scuffles in this book, though there is very little violence: A town bully picks on other kids and throws pennies, and there is a sleepover scene during which non-Jewish friends tease Zelly about whether Jeremy keeps kosher or wears “a little beanie” (yarmulke or kippah worn by religious Jews). Ace uses some Yiddish words that could be offensive, and, toward the end of the book, he has a heart attack and that causes anxiety regarding whether he will recover. 

Talk It Over!

Zelly has to work hard for something that she wants. Is there something you want that you are willing to work for? If so, how hard would you try to get it?  

More for You

Chelm stories are funny Jewish folktales that Ace loves to tell. Nobel Prize-winning Yiddish author Isaac Bashevis Singer helped make Chelm stories famous. Your family might enjoy When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw, a classic collection of humorous Chelm tales.