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The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis Hardcover – September 15, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 3–6—Popeye thinks life is boring in Fayette, SC, where his grandmother keeps her mind sharp by reciting the kings and queens of England in chronological order and gives her grandson vocabulary words each week to keep his mind exercised. Life changes when a boy named Elvis and his nomadic, quirky family get their Holiday Rambler motor home stuck in red mud near Popeye's house. They meet and Elvis quickly names Popeye the senior vice president of the Spit and Swear Club. Popeye is impressed and longs for Elvis's interesting life. He, too, would like a paper plate with his name written on it in crayon and a mother who asks his opinion for rhyming words while writing her newest country-western tune. Elvis suggests they go on an adventure, which begins when they spot boats made from Yoo-hoo chocolate drink boxes floating down the creek carrying mysterious notes and they set off to track down the boat maker and the meaning of the notes. Like Eben in Betty G. Birney's The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs (S & S, 2005), Elvis and Popeye's journey reminds readers to look for and enjoy the small treasures in their lives. Save a spot on your shelves for this small adventure with a grand heart.—Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego END

Review

“With humor and authenticity, this beguiling tale of summer friendship mines the small, jewellike adventures of a rural childhood.” ―STARRED, Publishers Weekly

“Elvis and Popeye's journey reminds readers to look for and enjoy the small treasures in their lives. Save a spot on your shelves for this small adventure with a grand heart.” ―STARRED, School Library Journal

“This small gem has the power to keep readers entranced.” ―Kirkus Reviews, STARRED

“O'Connor captures South Carolina speech patterns; she quietly paces the narrative, often placing short sentences in a vertical sequence for emphasis. Yes, sometimes the best gifts come in small packages.” ―The Horn Book

“The rich specificity of the experience should keep readers involved.” ―Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“Interestingly offbeat characters, a clear narrative arc, and intriguing vocabulary . . . a satisfying read.” ―Booklist

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 750L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st Edition, 4th Printing edition (September 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374370559
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374370558
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,065,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
American children grow up reading so many good British novels that sometimes it's hard to conjure up similar books of a Yankee nature. Maybe that's why I like Barbara O'Connor so much. Fantasy fans are forever searching for the next great American fantasy novel, but I for one am forever on a search for the next great American realistic children's book. And certainly "The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis" probably owes more to "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" than "The Railway Children" when you read its plot and cadences. Small and unassuming, O'Connor appears to be honing her craft with each book she writes. This latest is simply one of her best.

Boredom comes cheap in Fayette, South Carolina. If Popeye could sell it he'd be a rich boy by now. After all, there's very little to keep him interested this summer. Living with his grandmother and his dog, life doesn't really perk up until a Holiday Rambler filled to the brim with a loud, squabbling, exciting family gets stuck in a nearby mud patch. Popeye quickly befriends Elvis, a boy about his age, and the two decide that what they need is a small adventure. It's simply perfect that such an adventure presents itself to the two when boats made out of Yoo-Hoo cartons start sailing down the nearby creek carrying cryptic messages. Who's sending them? What do they mean? And will the boys be able to solve the mystery before Elvis's Rambler is removed from the mud at last?

How do you make a book about nothing interesting?
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Format: Paperback
In a refreshing departure from fantasy novels, The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis engaged my 8-year-old son as well as any Harry Potter novel has done in the last couple of years. While he is capable of reading it himself, I still read to him every night at bed time, and I found this book to be perfectly cadenced for reading out loud. The style, imagery, character development, and plot were all pitch-perfect. Strongly recommend for literature- and adventure-lovers alike.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After I put my son to bed, I jump on the computer and check my email and catch up on the blogs I follow. One of those blogs is Barbara O'Connor's Greetings From Nowhere. Barbara is witty, funny, clever, quirky and oh-so-human (see her Cafe Francais saga), so it is no wonder she can breathe life into witty, funny, clever, quirky and oh-so-human characters.

In "Small Adventure", Velma recites the kings and queens of England in chronological order. As someone who just crossed the 40-year mark and is a new mom, as I read this part of the book I was thinking this is a great way to keep one's mind sharp. Then I read Popeye's reaction. And it's perfect. And not terribly complimentary. Not only can Barbara O'Connor create characters so real that you think you know them, she can draw you so entirely into a book that you forget it is just a story.

By the time I hit the Yoo-hoo boats, there was no retreating. No way I was putting this book down until I met everyone and I found out how this story ended. So go out and buy this book. It's a short story and a fast read and not a single word is wasted. And you'll enjoy re-visiting it for years to come.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Popeye lives in a small town with his grandmother and no-good-do-nothing uncle. Life is boring. Nothing happens. He longs for something to happen. One day, after a week of rain a trailer gets stuck in the mud. Living in the trailer is Elvis, his parents and a bunch of siblings. Elvis and Popeye become friends and find a boat made out of a Yoohoo carton floating on the creek. They decide they need to find out who made the boat and sent it down the creek. And so the adventure begins. Can they figure out the mystery before the trailer is dug out of the mud? This is a quick read and a sweet story. Elementary aged boys will especially like it.
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Format: Hardcover
How can there only be 5 reviews of this delightful book?!?! We need to give this book more attention! I loved reading the Soup books as a kid, and this book reminds me of those. Who doesn't love a book with two little boys stuck in the middle of nowhere looking for some adventure? I listened to the audio version of this book in the car with my 13 year-old son. We laughed and laughed at the clever, witty dialogue. I wanted to write down so many lines to quote later. While this book was probably written with a younger reader in mind, this mom & middle schooler sure enjoyed spending an afternoon with Popeye and Elvis & their adventures in rural South Carolina. If I were still teaching school, I wouldn't hesitate to read this to my 4th graders. I expect this will become a family favorite for car trips.
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Format: Audible Audio Edition
My kids and I have listened to this story several times. I admit that in the fist five minutes I had doubts, and suggested we move on to something else. They protested, and were right. It is a funny, wonderful, and unexpected story.
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Format: Paperback
Age 7-11.

Popeye lives in small-town Fayette, South Carolina with his quirky grandmother, Velma, who he fears is "cracking up", his "lazy bum moocher" uncle, Dooley, and his faithful dog, Boo. The unrelenting rain has kept him cooped up with nothing to do but watch the water stain on his bedroom ceiling grow, listen to Velma "exercise her brain" by reciting the kings and queens of England in order, and listen to Dooley snore on the living room couch. Finally able to go outside, Popeye discovers a sparkling motor home stuck in the mud along the road near his house. The Holiday Rambler is home to Elvis Jewell, a boy his age, and his family. Popeye is fascinated with the way this big, rambunctious family lives and with the kids' Spit and Swear Club. The two quickly become friends and a small adventure awaits them when they spot tiny boats, made from Yoo-hoo chocolate drink boxes, floating down the creek with mysterious messages folded inside them. Will they find out what the messages mean and who sent them down the creek before the Holiday Rambler is set free and Elvis must leave?

This is a humorous, fast-paced story that will capture and hold the attention of elementary school children, especially boys. Barbara O'Connor did an excellent job of creating fascinating characters that are relatable to children and depicting these characters in a manner so vivid they will come to life in their minds. I enjoyed her use of southern dialect which is often full of colorful words and expressions passed down from generation to generation. This would be a great book to read aloud to elementary school students and easy for upper elementary school students to read independently since the more difficult words (and definitions) have been incorporated into the storyline. This is a delightful story that will have students laughing out loud.
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