Happy Birthday, Sophie Hartley

by Stephanie Greene

A new look for the humorous stories of Sophie Hartley, just right for emergent readers. 

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547550251
  • ISBN-10: 0547550251
  • Pages: 128
  • Publication Date: 08/01/2011
  • Carton Quantity: 112

About the book

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.

About the author
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.



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 ...


"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