This is a charming middle-grade novel where readers are treated to a sneak-peek of Sophie's family, school and friends. I loved all the little details about Sophie's family, who obviously have a lot of warm feeling for each other. As the youngest child Sophie is always feeling a bit left out. She's crushed when her older teen sister Nora moves out of their shared artistic messy room into a tidy attic room of her own. For her tenth birthday, Sophie doesn't want much... just a cute baby gorilla. Once she promises her classmates that getting a gorilla is a certainty, there's no end to the teasing she gets. She's worried about how on earth she'll make good on her word, until she saves face when her mom reminds everyone that gorillas are endangered, and therefore, impossible to keep as pets. Greene does a marvelous job of illuminating the inner-life of a child and everything Sophie thinks and says definitely rings true.
This story reminded me a lot of Alice's Birthday Pig by Tim Kennemore, about a similarly sweet and delightful family. Happy Birthday, Sophie Hartley is the latest in a series about the irrepressible Sophie, but readers need not have read the earlier volumes to make sense of this one. I'll recommend this book to readers looking for something finer and more gentle than Junie B. Jones, and something just a hair easier than the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary.