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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, written by Barbara O'Connor. Square Fish, Macmillan. 2009. $ 7.99 ages 8 and up

"Popeye was beginning to hate that clock. He was sick to high heaven of watching it turn minutes into hours and hours into days. Every day the same. So what if the rain stopped? Popeye thought. It would still be boring."

It's amazing what boredom can do to you! Popeye's been inside all week, listening to his grandmother Velma do everything she can to keep her mind from 'cracking up' and to his Uncle Dooley snoring on the sofa. When an RV gets stuck in the muddy lane near his house, Popeye wonders if adventure might be on the horizon.

That RV is filled with a passel of kids, and the oldest is Elvis. Popeye is immediately captivated by him. Elvis is all those things that Popeye is not...he's loud, he's daring, he breaks rules, he even says 'so what?' and means it! Elvis is president of the Spit and Swear Club (I'd like to join but I HATE spitting!) and he names Popeye senior vice president. Popeye will now follow him anywhere...another case of the good boy living vicariously through a less than perfect friend.

It is Elvis who suggests a little adventure. Popeye is hesitant as he doesn't want trouble with Velma; he's bound to be up to his eyeballs, if she catches wind of what they are planning. But, he's bored and Elvis offers friendship and an escape. It is no grand adventure. It's just affords a bit of mischief, some mystery and a 'small adventure' that will alter Popeye's life.

Their window of opportunity is narrow as Elvis' family will be gone as soon as they can 'unstick' their RV. As they travel the nearby countryside, they notice Yoo-Hoo containers floating in the creek. They carry messages that piques their interest and then their need to find the messenger. Will that happen? Who is sialing those messages down the creek?

Barbara O'Connor has a wonderful way with characters and I must confess that they are what hold my attention in most of the reading that I do. Here, she does it again, leaving her readers richer for knowing them. This would be a perfect back to school readaloud to get kids thinking, discussing and even writing about the 'small adventures' that made their summer of 2011 memorable.

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