Macky Pamintuan

Squeak Twice for Yes

In this funny and touching story, two science fair partners strive for first place but get something better.

By Bobbie Pyron
From the March / April 2018 Issue
Lexile: 590L
Guided Reading Level: T
DRA Level: 50
Topic: Social Issues,

As you read, look for how some unexpected events in the story solve a problem in a surprising way.

The night I discovered Sherlock could talk was just a regular night.

Mom was rushing around the kitchen, trying to figure out what to do with the pork chops Dad had forgotten to take out of the freezer.

“Brian,” Mom cried. “Would you please call your dog? He’s driving me crazy with his squeaky toy!”

Sherlock stood in front of her, squeaking his stuffed monkey over and over.

“Come here, Sherlock,” I said. Sherlock bounded over, wagging his tail. He looked up at me with those big brown eyes. Most of the time his eyes were happy. This time his eyes said, “Listen up!”

“What is it, Sherlock?” I asked.

Squeak, squeak—squeeeeeeeak!

“Are you trying to tell me something?”

Squeak! Squeak!

“Hey, Dad,” I said. “I think Sherlock is trying to talk to us through Mr. Squeaks.”  Sherlock squeaked the monkey twice.

“He’s trying to tell you he wants his dinner,” Mom called from the kitchen.

Sherlock yipped at the sound of his favorite word: dinner.

“Is that what you want, Sherlock?” I asked.  “Squeak twice for yes if you want dinner.”

Sherlock picked up the slobbery monkey and squeaked it twice.

 “Mom! Did you see that?”

Dad watched Mom poke at the frozen pork chops.

“Brian, just feed that poor dog. And honey, call Speedy’s Pizza,” Mom said as she slumped down on the couch.

I filled Sherlock’s dish with food.

“You want your dinner, boy?” I asked. Squeak! Squeak!

I decided to try something else. “Do you want to go to the vet, Sherlock? Squeak twice for yes and once for no.”

Sherlock bit down once on Mr. Squeaks. Hard.

“Whoa! Mom! Dad! Did you see that?”

They were too busy arguing over pizza toppings to notice.

The next day at school, I found Ophelia in the library. She was easy to spot because she wears the same clothes every day—jeans, a T-shirt that says “It’s All Relative,” and a purple cap with “Doctor Who Rules” stitched on it. The kids in fifth grade think she’s weird. I happen to know she’s a genius. That’s why I was lucky to get her as my science fair partner. With her brains, I actually had a chance of going to the Missouri State Championship in St. Louis. The winners would get tickets to Six Flags amusement park, which had just opened the Super Anti-Gravity Coaster. I wanted to ride it more than anything.

“Hey, Phee,” I said. “You’re coming over today to work on our project, aren’t you?”

She glared at me over the rim of her glasses. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who can call her Phee without getting socked in the stomach. “Of course,” she said. “Our presentation is in five days.”

 “Cool!” I held my hand up for an automatic high five. Ophelia rolled her eyes. Ophelia does not do high fives.

Later that day, we sat cross-legged on my bedroom floor, going over our presentation on Morse code. Ophelia studied her checklist as she tapped her pencil on the side of her glasses.

“First, you’ll tell them how Samuel Morse and some others invented this method of communicating in 1836. Then, using this Morse code alphabet chart I made, you’ll explain how each letter and number is represented by a unique sequence of dots and dashes or clicks. And don’t forget—”

“It’s boring, Phee,” I groaned.

“It’s a perfectly good presentation,” she sniffed.

“But it’s not going to win,” I said.

Sherlock trotted into my room holding Mr. Squeaks in his mouth.

“Watch this, Phee. Sherlock, squeak twice for a dog cookie.”

Squeak! Squeak!

“See,” I said. “He can talk.”

“Coincidence,” Ophelia said.

“No, really,” I said. “Watch this.”

We ran through our yes-for-dinner and no-for-the-vet routine. “Interesting but irrelevant,” Ophelia said.

Sherlock put his front paws on Ophelia’s knees. Squeak, squeak-squeak, squeeee, squeak!

“See, he’s using Morse code,” I said, half joking and half not.

Ophelia rolled her eyes. “Right. How would a dog learn Morse code?”

“Why not?” I said. “On Animal Planet they said chimpanzees, dolphins, and even dogs have been taught to ‘read’ symbols for words.” Picking up steam, I said, “He’s been in the room with us while we’ve been working on this project. It makes total sense!”

Ophelia shook her head.

I paced around my bedroom. “Phee, do you know what this means?” I grabbed Sherlock by his furry front paws and danced him around the room. “There’s no way we can lose now with Sherlock.”

Ophelia stuffed her notepad into her Albert Einstein backpack. “The only way we’ll win is by hard work, not with a trick dog!”

“But Phee—”

“No buts, Brian. I’ve worked hard on the research and graphs and posters. All I need you to do is give the oral presentation.”

“Why can’t you do it along with me?”

She looked down at her cowboy boots. “I. Can’t. Talk. In. Front. Of. People.”

I touched her trembling arm. “Don’t worry. I have it covered.”

After she left, I studied the Morse code alphabet chart. “Maybe Ophelia’s right,” I said. “Maybe you weren’t really using Morse code.”

Sherlock picked up Mr. Squeaks. Squeak, squeak-squeak, squeeee, squeak!

I wrote down the pattern of his squeaks then looked up at the chart.

“I’ve got it!” I crowed. “You said, ‘One smart boy,’ didn’t you?” Sherlock squeaked his monkey twice.

I laughed and rolled on the floor with my dog. “Six Flags, here I come!”

The day of the science fair arrived. Ophelia had the charts and posters. All I had to bring was Sherlock. And Mr. Squeaks.

“I still don’t understand why we’re bringing the dog,” Mom said.

“I told you. He’s part of the presentation,” I said with a grin.

I found Ophelia setting up our table in the packed gymnasium. I hardly recognized her: She had on a dress and no Doctor Who cap.

“Wow, Phee,” I said. “You look really—”

“Don’t say a word,” she said, her face turning as red as Mr. Squeaks’s cape. “And what’s he doing here?” she demanded, pointing at Sherlock.

Before I had a chance to argue with her again, Principal Meeks announced the beginning of the contest.

 “You’re ready with your part, right?” Ophelia grew paler the closer the judges came.

“I’ve been working with Sherlock all week,” I assured her. “He can say ‘Hello, my name is Sherlock’ in Morse code.”

“That’s not what I meant,” she hissed.

The judges, teachers, parents, and students arrived at our table. There must have been 30 people. Ophelia whimpered behind me.

“Ah, and what would a science fair be without a Morse code project,” Mr. Dent, the English teacher, sighed.

I smiled. “My partner and I have a very different presentation. We’ve taught my dog to communicate using Morse code.”

“Let me introduce him.” I looked behind me. No Sherlock.

“He was here just a minute ago,” I said.

“Sherlock, where are you, boy?” I called.

A faint squeak came from under the table. I lifted the tablecloth. Sherlock was hiding with Mr. Squeaks.

I pulled him out and set him on the table beside the poster of the Morse code alphabet. “Meet Sherlock, the talking dog,” I said. He looked as terrified as Ophelia.

I explained how I’d taught him to talk using different squeaks for dots and dashes. I handed Sherlock his monkey. Someone in the back laughed.

“Sherlock, why don’t you introduce yourself?” He stared out at the crowd, frozen. Mr. Squeaks shook in Sherlock’s mouth.

“What’s the matter? Cat got his tongue?” someone called. Everyone laughed.

Sherlock squealed with fright and leapt off the table, knocking Ophelia’s charts to the floor. The crowd scattered as he flew across the gym toward the doors.

“Sherlock! Wait!” I cried. “Come back!”

 Ophelia clutched a sheet of paper, her hands shaking but her face determined. “I’ll take over. Go find him.”

I almost melted in gratitude. “Thanks, Phee,” I said as I dashed away.

Mom and Dad scoured the hallways with me and called Sherlock’s name. 

No Sherlock. I felt sicker than sick.

Dad patted my shoulder. “We’ll find him.”

Mom put her arm around me. “I’m sorry about the project, honey. I know how much you wanted to win.”

Tears stung my eyes. “I don’t care about winning the stupid science fair. I just want to find Sherlock.”

But Sherlock was nowhere to be found. “We’ll look out in the parking lot,” Mom said. “You go help Ophelia.”

When I spotted Ophelia with all our stuff packed up, I felt even more terrible.

“I’m really sorry, Ophelia,” I said miserably. “I ruined everything.”

She turned around, grinning!

“Sherlock!” I cried. I took my dog from her arms.

“He came back here while you were looking for him,” she said.

I hugged him. “You were right all along, Phee,” I said. “It was stupid to think he could talk. I guess sometimes a squeak is just a squeak.”

She ruffled Sherlock’s ears. “It’s OK. If he hadn’t run away, I’d never have found the courage to actually talk in front of people. That’s worth more than any first-place medal.”

Sherlock yipped and wagged his tail. I put him on the floor. He grabbed his monkey and squeaked it for all he was worth.

Sherlock pawed Ophelia’s leg and squeaked the same pattern again. Ophelia grabbed a pen and scribbled something down.

Her eyes grew huge, and then she laughed.

“What is it?” I asked.

She turned the pad so I could read it:

“Sherlock sorry sorry boy.”

We laughed. Ophelia held up her hand, and we slapped the best high
five ever.

“You ready to go home, Sherlock?”

Squeeeak! Squeeeeeeak! 

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Answer Key (2)
Answer Key (2)
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More About the Story


plot, vocabulary, author’s craft, character, key details, problem and solution, characters’ motivation, figurative language, compare and contrast, narrative writing

Complexity Factors

Levels of Meaning/Purpose

“Squeak Twice for Yes” is about two fifth-graders’ preparations for a science fair presentation on Morse code. In the course of the story, Ophelia overcomes her fear of public speaking and Brian realizes that some things are more important than winning.


The story is told in the first person and is chronological.


The language is mainly conversational and includes a good deal of dialogue.

Knowledge Demands 

The text includes a few idioms. It also mentions Doctor Who and Six Flags amusement park.

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

1. Preparing to Read

Preview Text Features/Set a Purpose for Reading (3 minutes)  

Ask a volunteer to read aloud the Up Close box on page 11.

  • Preview the questions in the margins. Point out the blank “write your own question” bubble on page 14.

Vocabulary (10 minutes)

  • Distribute our vocabulary activity to preview five words. Students will also be able to add other words from the story that are unfamiliar to them.
  • Words in the activity are unique, sequence, coincidence, irrelevant, and scoured.

2. Close Reading

First Read: Get to Know the Text (20 minutes)

  • Read the story aloud as a class, or play our audio version as students follow along in their magazines.

Second Read: Unpack the Text (30 minutes)

  • Have small groups read the story again, pausing to discuss the close-reading questions in the margins. They can then respond on their own paper. Answers follow.
  • Ask students to write their own questions in the blank bubble on page 14, using the other questions as models. Students can exchange their questions with a partner or share and discuss them as a group.
  • Discuss the critical-thinking questions.

Answers to Close-Reading Questions

  • Author’s Craft (p. 11) Students will probably say the line makes them wonder how a dog could talk.
  • Plot (p. 11) Brian believes that Sherlock is “talking” by squeaking his monkey toy to use a code.
  • Character (p. 11) You can tell by what she wears (and that it’s the same thing every day) that Ophelia is a quirky person who doesn’t care about being like everyone else. Brian describes her as a genius.
  • Key Details (p. 12) Morse code is a way of communicating using dots and dashes (or long and short sounds) and is the topic of Brian and Ophelia’s science fair project. Brian becomes convinced that Sherlock has learned Morse code and is trying to use it to communicate by squeaking his monkey toy.
  • Plot (p. 12) Brian plans to include Sherlock in their science fair presentation because he believes a dog that knows Morse code will ensure their win.
  • Problem (p. 13) Ophelia is terrified of public speaking. This is why she wants Brian to do the presentation at the science fair.
  • Character Motivation (p. 13) Brian wants to win so he can get tickets to the amusement park, while Ophelia seems more interested in creating a well-researched and well-organized presentation.
  • Figurative Language (p. 13) This phrase is used to express surprise that someone isn’t speaking when they were expected to do so.
  • Plot (p. 14) When Sherlock runs away, the science fair presentation is disrupted. Ophelia kindly offers to take over so Brian can look for his dog, despite her fear of talking in front of people.
  • Solution (p. 14) Ophelia’s offer to give the presentation so Brian can hunt for Sherlock forces her to speak in front of a group. In the end, she is thrilled that she found the courage to overcome her fear.

Critical-Thinking Questions

  • How are Brian’s goals for the science fair different from Ophelia’s? How do their goals change during the story? (compare and contrast)
    Brian wants the amusement park tickets that the firstplace winner will get and believes teaching Sherlock Morse code is the key to making their presentation interesting enough to win. Ophelia is focused less on winning and more on doing a good job. She is not in favor of including Sherlock because she believes that hard work is more important than a flashy presentation. When Sherlock runs away, Ophelia’s goal changes to facing her fear of public speaking so Brian can search for his dog. Brian shifts his focus to finding Sherlock, which is more important to him than winning the fair or the tickets.
  • In what way are Sherlock and Ophelia similar? (character)
    Both Sherlock and Ophelia are very nervous about “speaking” in front of a group. Ophelia wants Brian to do all the talking at the science fair. She stands behind him nervously whimpering when everyone approaches their table. Sherlock also hides from the group, making frightened sounds. Brian notices that his dog looks “as terrified as Ophelia.”

3. Skill Building

Featured Skill: Plot

  • Distribute our plot activity. It will help students prepare to respond to the writing prompt

Differentiate and Customize
For Struggling Readers

Pause periodically while reading the story and ask “What just happened?” Have students respond on sticky notes, which they can place in the magazine next to the action described. Reviewing the series of notes will help students better understand the story’s plot.

For Advanced Readers

Ask students to imagine how the story might have been different if Sherlock had not run away during the science fair. Then have them work alone or in pairs to write alternate endings.

For ELL Students

The story is rich in past-tense action verbs. Help your ELLs get a handle on bounded, yipped, slumped, glared, socked, sniffed, whimpered, squealed, dashed, and ruffled by displaying the words and discussing their meanings. Students should take turns acting out a word while others guess it, saying “She yipped,” “He slumped,” etc.

For Small Groups

Instruct groups to reread the story, pausing after each scene with Sherlock. At each of these points, the group should work together to create a short blog post from Sherlock’s perspective to describe what just happened in the story. Students can use these posts to help them with the writing prompt