Happy Birthday, Sophie Hartley by Stephanie GreeneHappy Birthday, Sophie Hartley by Stephanie Greene

Happy Birthday, Sophie Hartley

byStephanie Greene

Paperback | August 1, 2011

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"Girls undergoing the same growing-up trials will be happy to have Sophie make them laugh."&nbsp - Kirkus Reviews The third novel about indomitable, quirky, passionate Sophie. For her double-digit (tenth) birthday, Sophie wants a baby gorilla and convinces herself and most of her friends that she's getting one. This birthday has many surprises in store for Sophie-and not just the kind you unwrap.
Stephanie Greene is the author of the Owen Foote books and three novels about Sophie Hartley, as well as a number of other books for children. A graduate of the MFA program in writing for children at Vermont College, Ms. Greene lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Visit her website at www.stephaniegreenebooks.com .
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Title:Happy Birthday, Sophie HartleyFormat:PaperbackDimensions:128 pages, 7.63 × 5.13 × 0.41 inPublished:August 1, 2011Publisher:Houghton Mifflin HarcourtLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0547550251

ISBN - 13:9780547550251

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One On the whole, Sophie felt that the conversation about herbirthday present had gone very well. She’d decided to talk to her father about it first. Sophie likedtalking to him about things. He could be more reasonable thanher 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 ofchips before she perched lightly on the arm of the couch next tohis chair and whispered, “Dad?” She knew from experience that it was a good idea to whisperher 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, keepinghis 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 leapedto 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 againand took a swig of his soda before she went on. “I don’t want onethis year,” she said. “I want a baby gorilla.” If she absolutely had to, she was prepared to add, “It couldBe 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 adeep sleep, and cried, “What? Oh, Sophie! Wonderful! Run andget me some more chips, there’s a good girl,” absently pattingher 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 wasas 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 familyroom, holding her pencil between her big toe and the one nextto it, Sophie wrote her name in spidery letters with her foot. Herfoot kept cramping from the effort, and she had to stop andmassage it several times before she could go on. It was a good thing gorillas had short names, like Kiki. Theywere easier to write. Sophie had fallen in love with gorillas after watching a programon TV about a baby gorilla that was being raised bypeople in a zoo. It wore diapers and drank from a bottle like areal baby. Sophie thought it looked like a real baby, exceptmuch cuter. She had promptly taken out all the gorilla books she couldfind from the school’s media center. She especially liked the oneabout the woman who’d moved to Africa to live with gorillasand had died trying to protect them. Passionate, the book called the woman. Sophie loved thatword. Deep in her heart she knew she was passionate. Shewould be willing to die to protect something she loved, too. Ofcourse, 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 werevery smart. At one zoo, a scientist named Dr. Pimm was teachinga baby gorilla how to communicate using sign language. Because Sophie didn’t know sign language, and because allthese animals seemed to do so many things with their feet, shedecided to teach herself how to write with her feet, so she couldcommunicate with her gorilla when she got it. The idea was a little confusing, even to Sophie, but she keptat it. Her mother wouldn’t be able to resist when Sophie told herthat gorillas didn’t scratch furniture or dig holes, and thatSophie was going to be able to write notes to her gorilla telling itwhat not to do. She was about to dot the i in her name when two armswrapped themselves around her neck and a high-pitched voicedemanded, “Wide! Wide!” “Not now, Maura,” Sophie said. She grabbed her babysister’s hands and tried to pry them from around her neck.Maura promptly lifted her feet off the ground, dangling herentire sixteen-month-old body weight down Sophie’s back.It was Maura’s newest trick, and very effective. Sophie couldbarely breathe. “Maura, no!” she cried, wrenching her sister’s hands apartand dumping her on her bottom. Maura wailed and kicked herheels against the floor. Sophie ignored her.It was the only thing to do when Maura had a tempertantrum. She had them a lot these days. Mrs. Hartley said it wasbecause Maura was going through the “terrible twos.” “What do you mean?” Sophie had said. “She’s only sixteenmonths.” “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 refusedTo walk for the longest time because so many people in the familywere willing to carry her. When Mrs. Hartley made themstop, Maura had started staggering around the house, pullingmagazines 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 unrollinguntil all that was left was the cardboard tube. All Mrs. Hartleyever did was say “No, Maura” in a lot nicer voice than she usedwith everyone else in the family. For Sophie, the final straw had come the week before. WhenMaura walked across one of Sophie’s wet paintings in her barefeet, Mrs. Hartley had made it sound as if it were Sophie’s fault. “For heaven’s sake, work at the kitchen table!” her mothersaid 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. “Ithink 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 anddrew a picture of a baby with a red face, a huge circle for amouth, a few teeth, and waterfalls of tears gushing out of botheyes. She wrote DANGER: FLOOD ZONE under it and taped it toMaura’s bedroom door. She also decided that since it was obvious her mother wasn’tgoing 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 wantit,” Sophie said, crouching over her paper again. “I’ll give you apiggyback ride when I’m finished.” Maura stopped kicking the floor and started kickingSophie’s back instead. Sophie scooted sideways on her bottomuntil she was out of Maura’s reach and, using her best teacher-likevoice, said, “I’m not going to play with you until you learnpatience.” “Patience? Who’re you kidding?” Sophie’s older sister, Nora,had made her entrance. She tossed her backpack on the couchand made for the family computer. “Number one, you don’tknow what patience is, Sophie,” she said scornfully. “And numbertwo, Maura’s still a baby.”As she sat down, Nora frowned at the pencil betweenSophie’s toes. “What’re you doing?” she asked. Then, veryquickly, “No. Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.” It was too late. Sophie was so used to Nora’s not wanting to hear what shehad to say that she took even an idle question as encouragement.If Sophie stopped talking whenever someone in her familywanted her to, she’d never get to explain any of her ideas. Sophie thought her ideas were interesting. “One of the biggest differences between primates and Manis that primates don’t have thumbs,” she explained to her sister’sback. “No, wait. Gorillas do have thumbs. They even havethumbs on their feet.” Sophie cheerfully bopped herself on the forehead a fewtimes and shook her head to rattle her ideas into their properplace in her brain before she went on. “But they can’t write, soscientists are teaching them how to speak.” She cheated a bit by steadying the pencil with her hand asshe wrote. “Well, not speak, exactly, but make signs people canread. Sign language, it’s called. I thought I’d try to write usingmy feet to make it equal.” Nora had stopped typing. She was sitting with her fingerspoised above the keyboard, staring at Sophie over her shoulder.When Sophie felt her sister’s eyes on her, she looked up andsmiled. It was gratifying to think Nora found gorillas as interestingas she did. “When I get my baby gorilla, I mean,” Sophie told her. “Formy birthday.” “Do you have any idea how little sense that makes?” At thirteen,Nora had a way of disdainfully curling her mouth wheneverSophie talked, as if Sophie were saying something ridiculous.“Gorillas are learning sign language, so you’re going to write withyour feet?” she said. “I mean, like, none, Sophie.” Sophie tried to think back to what she’d actually said. She’dbeen so intent on putting a little smiley face over the i in hername that she couldn’t remember. It had sounded all rightinside her head. “I don’t know why Mom doesn’t have you tested,” Norasaid, sighing heavily as she turned back to the keyboard. “Halfthe time, the front part of what you say doesn’t have anythingto do with the end part, and the rest is so insane, none of itmakes sense.” “Tested for what?” Sophie said gamely. She found testsinteresting. If she didn’t always answer the questions the wayshe was supposed to, it wasn’t her fault. Lots of times, thereseemed to be more than one answer. On those horrible end-of-grade tests, Sophie didn’t do nearlyas well as she thought she should. She blamed the tests. “I don’t know, but there’s got to be an explanation.” Norawas typing furiously in response to the little boxes popping upall over the computer screen like tiny message bombs. “It’s asif you’re not dealing with a full deck or something,” she said,pecking away. “Mom said I was gifted,” said Sophie. “So there.” “Idiot savant is more like it.”Nora typed a bit more, then suddenlyjumped as though the seat had shocked her and cried,“Omigod!” in a pleased voice. “I don’t believe it!” “What? One of your boyfriends again?” “It’s none of your business!” Nora cried, plastering herarms and upper body across the computer screen. “Stop readingmy mail!” It wasn’t as if she were holding a pair of binoculars to hereyes, Sophie thought disgustedly. Nora had been acting nutslately. It was all because she had become boy crazy over the pastfew months. She and her friends giggled and shrieked about boys somuch, you would have thought they’d never seen one before.Sophie didn’t understand why Nora found them so interesting.Especially after living with their brothers, John and Thad. Boys were—well, boys were either boring or annoying, asfar as Sophie could see. The boys in her class walked aroundflapping their arms with their hands in their armpits to makefarting noises. They read joke books, too, then told dumb jokesthat nobody laughed at except other boys. “I don’t see why you make such a big deal about boys,”Sophie said. “They’re exactly the same as girls. You’re being sexist.” Sexist was a new word some of the girls in Sophie’s classwere using. It meant someone who thought boys were betterthan girls. The girls said boys were sexist. And here was Noraacting sexist herself. “Right, Sophie. Exactly the same,” Nora said. “That showsHow much you know, you baby.” Sophie was about to defend herself when Maura grabbed afistful of Sophie’s hair and tried to pull herself to her feet.Sophie yelped and yanked her hair out of her sister’s hands,sending Maura onto her bottom again. At that second, theirmother appeared in the doorway. It was Thursday, which meant Mrs. Hartley had startedwork at 7:30 in the morning, picked Maura up at daycare at 4:00and dropped her at home, and then gone to pick up John at histae kwon do class at 4:45. She was always tired by the time shegot home on Thursdays. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, Sophie,” her mother said. Shesnatched Maura up before she could utter her first scream andtook a quick sniff of Maura’s diaper. “You’re getting too old tofight with a two-year-old.” “She pulled my hair,” Sophie said, rubbing the back of herhead. “That’s because you dig in.”Her mother glanced at the pencilbetween Sophie’s toes as she turned to leave. “What on earthare you doing?” “Communicating with apes,” Nora told her. “That, I can believe,” said Mrs. Hartley.

Editorial 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 "