Happy Birthday, Sophie Hartley

Happy Birthday, Sophie Hartley

Sophie Hartley is almost sure that her dad said okay when she asked for a baby gorilla for her birthday. Soon the kids at school want to know every detail about the gorilla, and dealing with her enthusiastic classmates gets harder as the big day approaches. When teenage sister Nora leaves their shared bedroom for her own space in the attic, and close friend Jenna shows signs of becoming a shrieker, Sophie finds it hard to remain optimistic. Maybe painting her windowsills purple will help. And maybe she’ll get the perfect present! Funny and believable, the story of a big birthday will please old and new Sophie fans.

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547487465

  • ISBN-10: 0547487460

  • Pages: 128

  • Price: $3.99

  • Publication Date: 06/28/2010

  • Carton Quantity: 10

  • Age(s): 8,9,10,11,12

  • Grade(s): 3-7

  • Reading Level:

    • Lexile Reading Level 680L
    • Guided Reading Level P

Stephanie Greene

Stephanie Greene

Stephanie Greene is the author of many books for young readers, including the popular Owen Foote books. Ms. Greene lives in Chapel Hill, N.C. Her website is www.stephaniegreenebooks.com.
Learn More
  • reviews

    "Girls undergoing the same growing-up trials will be happy to have Sophie make them laugh."--Kirkus Reviews

    "A lively chapter book full of humor, believable family dynamics, and characters who think and talk like real people. . . . Greene explores her themes of identity, ambivalence about growing up, and friendship with an unusual naturalness and depth, yet the themes never trump story or character."--The Horn Book, starred review

    "[Readers will] want to unwrap this gem of a story and savor the delicious conclusions."--School Library Journal

  • excerpts


    On the whole, Sophie felt that the conversation about her

    birthday present had gone very well.

     She’d decided to talk to her father about it first. Sophie liked

    talking to him about things. He could be more reasonable than

    her mother. Especially when he was watching TV.

     Especially when he was watching football on TV.

     Sophie checked to make sure he had a soda and a bowl of

    chips before she perched lightly on the arm of the couch next to

    his chair and whispered, “Dad?”

     She knew from experience that it was a good idea to whisper

    her requests. When she whispered, he didn’t always answer

    “What’d your mother say?” the way he did at other times.

     “Dad?” she whispered again.

     Mr. Hartley leaned his head toward her ever so slightly, keeping

    his eyes fixed firmly on the screen, and said, “Hmm?”

     “You know how I always ask for a dog or a cat for my birthday?”

    Sophie whispered.

     “Hmm?”Mr. Hartley said again. Then he suddenly leaped

    to his feet, shouted “Go! Go! What are you waiting for, you cowards?”

    and shook his fist at the TV.

     Sophie waited patiently until he settled into his chair again

    and took a swig of his soda before she went on. “I don’t want one

    this year,” she said. “I want a baby gorilla.”

     If she absolutely had to, she was prepared to add, “It could

    Be my birthday present and my Christmas present.”

     Luckily, she didn’t have to make such a rash promise. Mr.

    Hartley gave a little start, as if Sophie had woken him up from a

    deep sleep, and cried, “What? Oh, Sophie! Wonderful! Run and

    get me some more chips, there’s a good girl,” absently patting

    her knee as he turned back to the TV.

     Sophie hopped up to get the chips. “Wonderful!” he’d said.

    Her father hardly ever said “Wonderful!” about anything. It was

    as good as a “Yes” in her book.

    It took a bit of practice, but she finally did it.

     Hunched over the piece of paper on the floor of the family

    room, holding her pencil between her big toe and the one next

    to it, Sophie wrote her name in spidery letters with her foot. Her

    foot kept cramping from the effort, and she had to stop and

    massage it several times before she could go on.

     It was a good thing gorillas had short names, like Kiki. They

    were easier to write.

     Sophie had fallen in love with gorillas after watching a program

    on TV about a baby gorilla that was being raised by

    people in a zoo. It wore diapers and drank from a bottle like a

    real baby. Sophie thought it looked like a real baby, except

    much cuter.

     She had promptly taken out all the gorilla books she could

    find from the school’s media center. She especially liked the one

    about the woman who’d moved to Africa to live with gorillas

    and had died trying to protect them.

     Passionate, the book called the woman. Sophie loved that

    word. Deep in her heart she knew she was passionate. She

    would be willing to die to protect something she loved, too. Of

    course, she didn’t want to have to do it until she was really old,

    and she didn’t want it to hurt.

     But she was definitely passionate.

     Another book said gorillas had brains like people and were

    very smart. At one zoo, a scientist named Dr. Pimm was teaching

    a baby gorilla how to communicate using sign language.

     Because Sophie didn’t know sign language, and because all

    these animals seemed to do so many things with their feet, she

    decided to teach herself how to write with her feet, so she could

    communicate with her gorilla when she got it.

     The idea was a little confusing, even to Sophie, but she kept

    at it. Her mother wouldn’t be able to resist when Sophie told her

    that gorillas didn’t scratch furniture or dig holes, and that

    Sophie was going to be able to write notes to her gorilla telling it

    what not to do.

     She was about to dot the i in her name when two arms

    wrapped themselves around her neck and a high-pitched voice

    demanded, “Wide! Wide!”

     “Not now, Maura,” Sophie said. She grabbed her baby

    sister’s hands and tried to pry them from around her neck.

    Maura promptly lifted her feet off the ground, dangling her

    entire sixteen-month-old body weight down Sophie’s back.

    It was Maura’s newest trick, and very effective. Sophie could

    barely breathe.

     “Maura, no!” she cried, wrenching her sister’s hands apart

    and dumping her on her bottom. Maura wailed and kicked her

    heels against the floor.

     Sophie ignored her.

    It was the only thing to do when Maura had a temper

    tantrum. She had them a lot these days. Mrs. Hartley said it was

    because Maura was going through the “terrible twos.”

     “What do you mean?” Sophie had said. “She’s only sixteen


     “Well then, she’s ahead of herself,” her mother said. “Gifted.

    All of my children are gifted.”

     Sophie personally thought Maura was spoiled. She’d refused

    To walk for the longest time because so many people in the family

    were willing to carry her. When Mrs. Hartley made them

    stop, Maura had started staggering around the house, pulling

    magazines off tables and books from bookshelves.

     Nothing was safe from her grasping hands: pots and pans,

    dishes on the table, toilet paper, which she delighted in unrolling

    until all that was left was the cardboard tube. All Mrs. Hartley

    ever did was say “No, Maura” in a lot nicer voice than she used

    with everyone else in the family.

     For Sophie, the final straw had come the week before. When

    Maura walked across one of Sophie’s wet paintings in her bare

    feet, Mrs. Hartley had made it sound as if it were Sophie’s fault.

     “For heaven’s sake, work at the kitchen table!” her mother

    said as she sat Maura on the edge of the sink and held her red,

    blue, and green feet under the tap.

     “But I always paint lying on the floor,” Sophie protested. “I

    think better when I’m on my stomach.”

     “Well, you’ll just have to think sitting up until Maura’s older,”

    Her mother said. “Honestly, Sophie, use your head.”

     Sophie was insulted. She went straight up to her room and

    drew a picture of a baby with a red face, a huge circle for a

    mouth, a few teeth, and waterfalls of tears gushing out of both

    eyes. She wrote DANGER: FLOOD ZONE under it and taped it to

    Maura’s bedroom door.

     She also decided that since it was obvious her mother wasn’t

    going to teach Maura any manners, she’d have to do it herself.

     Lesson number one would be patience.

     “You can’t have everything you want, the minute you want

    it,” Sophie said, crouching over her paper again. “I’ll give you a

    piggyback ride when I’m finished.”

     Maura stopped kicking the floor and started kicking

    Sophie’s back instead. Sophie scooted sideways on her bottom

    until she was out of Maura’s reach and, using her best teacher-like

    voice, said, “I’m not going to play with you until you learn


     “Patience? Who’re you kidding?” Sophie’s older sister, Nora,

    had made her entrance. She tossed her backpack on the couch

    and made for the family computer. ...

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547487465

  • ISBN-10: 0547487460

  • Pages: 128

  • Price: $3.99

  • Publication Date: 06/28/2010

  • Carton Quantity: 10

  • Age(s): 8,9,10,11,12

  • Grade(s): 3-7

  • Reading Level:

    • Lexile Reading Level 680L
    • Guided Reading Level P

Want the latest...

on all things Children's Books?