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The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis
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The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  623 Ratings  ·  177 Reviews
Nothing ever happens in Fayette, South Carolina. That's what Popeye thinks, anyway. His whole life, everything has just been boring, boring, boring. But things start to look up when the Jewells' Holiday Rambler makes a wrong turn and gets stuck in the mud, trapping Elvis and his five rowdy siblings in Fayette for who knows how long. Popeye has never met anyone like Elvis J ...more
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published September 15th 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
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Newbery 2010
89th out of 103 books — 541 voters

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(showing 1-30 of 1,014)
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Joe Bolin
Aug 27, 2013 Joe Bolin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-alouds
I just read this book aloud to my fourth grade class a second time (new class but the same age group) and it held up very well: still deserves all five stars! This time around, I added a new activity and picked up boxes of Yoo-Hoo at Dollar Tree. The children drank the Yoo-Hoo while I read the last three chapters and then we made boats just like Starletta! A great way to start the school year.
Dec 15, 2009 Betsy rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Aug 31, 2009 Kirby rated it really liked it
I don't know anyone who does a better job of leaving white space in a story than Barbara O'Connor. I study her books over and over to help me learn how to weave in backstory and to learn what to leave out. She says so much with spare, perfectly chosen words.

I loved this story of Popeye's "small" adventure and being immersed in his life. I admire the way we are set inside of homes that might be a little non-traditional but where you feel right to home. And I finished the book with a contented lit
Barb Middleton
May 28, 2014 Barb Middleton rated it really liked it
Shelves: realistic, adventure
Barbara O'Connor has quite a gift with words. The cadence of the sentences using repetition, sounds, and great voice, hooked me into the story from page one. Interestingly, not much happens in this story and for an impatient reader like myself it says a lot when I can't put a realistic fiction book down because I'm so engrossed in the setting and character voices. Popeye makes a temporary friend with Elvis who lives in a mobile trailer with a family of eight that has become stuck in the mud by h ...more
Nov 30, 2009 Allison rated it it was amazing
Seven reasons to love this book:
1. The short lived Spit and Swear Club
2. Yoo-hoo boats
3. Secret messages
4. A dog named BOO!
5. The chronological recitation of the Kings and
Queens of England
6. The Holiday Rambler and a whole bunch of mud
7. Popeye, Elvis, Calvin, Prissy, Walter, Willis, Shorty, and Princess Starletta Rainey
Jan 19, 2010 paula rated it really liked it
Sweet. Sweet, and full of mud. That's a nice combination, kind of like T.R. Pearson for kids. Also, any book involving kids and a creek (at least one in which none of the kids drown - I am still not over Bridge to Terabithia) usually gets me breathing a little deeper. Know what I'm saying? No? Hm.

Popeye lives in a crappy old house that backs onto the woods in semi-rural Fayette, South Carolina. His parents are off somewhere and he is being raised by his overprotective grandma Velma. He is on the
Jan 02, 2010 Becky rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It is the best Barbara O'Connor book yet. I loved the writing, the characters, the setting, the story. And it all works together...perfectly. And I loved the built-in vocabulary lessons. Readers of this book will be impressing their elders with words like "vicissitude" and "serendipity" and "avuncular".

It's summer in Fayette, South Carolina and it's been raining for days. You can feel the agonizing boredom and loneliness that weigh down Popeye. But the rain finally stops, Pope
Carol N
Nov 06, 2013 Carol N rated it it was amazing
Just finished this quirky, sweet and full of mud children's book on the recommendation of my "books- bud" - Joe. This is a short, funny piece of realistic fiction that plays to both boys and girls. It's set in the small rural town of Fayette, South Carolina and deals with the unexpected friendship of Popeye and Elvis. Popeye's parents are off somewhere and he is being raised by his overprotective grandma Velma. He is on the verge of boredom when an RV full of disheveled kids breaks down at his d ...more
Fantastic. I think this would make a great read aloud (I've used Greetings from Nowhere as a read aloud). I love how Barbara O'Connor captures the simplicity, freedom, and adventure of childhood. The kids in this book are just so endearing. It makes me want to be a kid again. I listened to the audio version, and the narrator is perfect - I laughed out loud as I was walking my dog! I also love the way she weaved vocabulary throughout the story without it sounding contrived. Loved the ending - gre ...more
Steph Su
Apr 11, 2014 Steph Su rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chase-classes
Nothing against the writing, or whatever. I just didn't feel like there was much going on at all, even though there was a small adventure and boats with cryptic notes inside. The "small Southern town in America" setting and feel of the book was difficult for my EL410 students to digest. However, even though at first my students thought the book was boring, they soon became interested in the "adventure," some of them going so far as to finish reading the book early.
Feb 25, 2010 Peg rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids_fiction, for-fun
Barbara O'Connor knows how to tell a story about ordinary folks. Not much is happening in Popeye's NC town and it looks like a long boring summer stretching out before him. Enter Elvis and his family, whose silver rambler gets stuck in the mud outside Popeye's grandmother's house. Popeye envies Elvis' lifestyle and bravado, particularly since he takes to heart his grandmother's constant rants and raves.
The small adventure is truly small, but just right for a couple boys on summer vacation. Ther
My South Carolinian mother and I cracked up at a couple of things: "A Hogstinkin' sack of nothin'? That was a good an insult as Popey ahd heard in a long time. He made a mental note to remember it." and "I swear, if that husband of mine had an idea, it would die of lonliness." Certainly phrases to be remembered and used frequently. :)

All in all, super fun to listen to - not so much for the scope of the "adventure" (after all, it is only a small adventure) but the voice of our narrator Popeye is
Colby Sharp
Apr 22, 2012 Colby Sharp rated it it was amazing
I LOVE this book.

A fourth grader kept coming up to me last week, trying to tell what was going on in this book. Every couple of pages he would come up to me, so excited to share what had just happened. By the 24th time he approached me: I had to ban him from talking about this book with me until I read it. In a one sitting reading this weekend I found out why this book had my student so excited.

I can't wait to talk Popeye and Elvis with a very cool fourth grader tomorrow morning.
Sep 15, 2012 Erin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens
If you want to read a book aloud to your child, skip this one. Besides being mostly boring, I felt like the characters were pretty awful examples--they had a "spitting and swearing" club, Popeye was dishonest and disobedient several times to his Grandma (legal guardian) and then tried to think up sneaky exuses to justify his lie, Elvis' favorite phrase to adults and kids alike was "so what." With so many other great books out there, don't waste your time with this one.
I really enjoyed discussing this book with my students (3rd and 4th graders). This is only the second Barbara O'Connor book that I've read, but I have to say that I enjoy the way she portrays children. I can't say her characterization of the children feels entirely accurate, but there's an essence of truth (or maybe nostalgia) that makes her child characters sound like actual children. I'm also a sucker for children's books set in the South. Maybe it's because I've never been to the South, but i ...more
Nov 16, 2014 Melissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: libs-642
Connor, B. (2009). The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Fiction Choice - Realistic Fiction; Humorous Fiction

Starred Review, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews

This is an adventurous and quirky story about a little boy named Popeye who lives with his Grandmother Verna and his "no good" Uncle Dooley in Fayette, North Carolina. Popeye, whose real name is Henry, received the nickname after his Uncle shot him in the eye with a BB gun. Noth
Anne Broyles
Oct 20, 2009 Anne Broyles rated it really liked it
Popeye's world expands when Elvis and his eccentric family come to Fayette, SC. Young readers who yearn for adventure may look more closely at what might be possible in their own worlds as they journey with Popeye and his new friend. O'Connor wisely gives enough nonverbal clues so readers can think through Popeye's feelings on their own instead of choosing to spell everything out for them.
Sep 27, 2011 Ann rated it it was amazing
Shelves: school
I LOVE the writing of Barbara O'Connor!! She always brings such wonderful characters and unique situations in her stories. I particularly liked Velma's words to prevent "cracking up" and who wouldn't love YOO HOO!!!
Grace Lin
Nov 01, 2009 Grace Lin rated it it was amazing
From the size of the actual book (it's just a bit smaller than standard, perfect for smaller hands) to the characters to the storyline and vocabulary words this book is charming, charming, charming.
Nov 11, 2010 Kathy rated it it was amazing
Perfect little gem of a book. Rural south with dysfunctional families and wonderful vocabulary words dropped into the story. Never knew why I wanted to know English royalty in order!
Heidi Branz
Dec 27, 2014 Heidi Branz rated it really liked it
I just read this book aloud to my 3/4 class. They liked it! I liked the simplicity of the "small adventure" that became something big for the characters. This story highlighted the importance of making your own adventure and using observation and imagination to engage with the world. The kids (and I) really liked the repetition of words and phrases in sets of three, and they liked chiming in when we got to one of these parts. It reminded me of the way picture books sometimes use alliteration, rh ...more
Janet Lynch
Apr 15, 2014 Janet Lynch rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids-lit
I loved this book. Popeye is bored until a shiny motor home full of Elvis and his big family gets stuck in the mud near his house. Popeye and Elvis find little boats made of chocolate milk cartons with cryptic messages inside floating down a nearby creek, and the boys are off on their small adventure, trying to discover who makes the boats and what the message mean. These are poor kids who don’t even realize it since their imaginations and sense of the world around them is so rich. Wonderful cha ...more
Small-town South Carolina life is pretty routine for Popeye until he discovers the silver RV camper stuck in the ditch, and meets the family living there: Elvis and all his brothers and sisters. Popeye and Elvis seek a "small adventure" apart from the little ones and find it in the mysterious Yoo-Hoo carton boats floating down the stream. Who's making these boats, where do they come from, and what's the meaning of the strange notes attached? Barbara O'Connor brings the rural South alive on the p ...more
Jan Carlson
Even though I really enjoy this author's books, I didn't care for this one. She usually writes about kids who are facing real life challenges. I suppose this one is the same. Popeye is prepared for a bored summer when Elvis and his family arrive accidentally. Their mobile home gets stuck in the mud near Popeye's house. Elvis and Popeye want a small adventure to ward off the boredom of summer. The wind up trying to figure out who is making little paper boats with secret messages. The basic story ...more
Popeye lives with his grandmother, Velma (who recites the names of the British monarchs – in order – to keep from cracking up), his Uncle Dooley (who accidentally shot him in the eye with a bb gun), and his dog, Boo, in South Carolina. It’s about the most boring place in the world until Elvis shows up with his boisterous siblings in their big silver motor home. Elvis is about Popeye’s age, and the two of them set off to have a small adventure. They’re out by the creek when they discover a tiny b ...more
Oct 23, 2009 Megan rated it it was amazing
Now anyone who knows me, knows I am a fan of Barbara O'Connor. I am also a sucker for a good southern accent and a backwoods setting. This book has backwoods written all over it and this is what I loved the most!
My favorite part of the book is the family in the rambling RV. I wanted to know them. I thought maybe I did know them. Oh, the characters... Gosh, Barbara is so good at character development. I knew all those characters. I put a face with them in a split second. (Or split page) The NAMES
Jul 28, 2011 Kelly rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 17, 2009 Jeanette rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade, 2009, cybils
Barbara O'Connor how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. 1. Greetings from Nowhere 2. The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis. And, well, that is it because those are the only books I've read by you, yet.
To me Barbara O'Connor has this ability to create amazing, vivid, really likable characters. And she puts those characters into settings that are just as wonderful and vivid to read about. But she does both these things without really writing a lot. Does that make sense? You know who these c
Sandra Stiles
Mar 28, 2010 Sandra Stiles rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grades
Popeye, so named because his uncle Dooley had accidently shot his eye out with a B.B gun when he was three, is bored. His life consists of staring at the heart shaped stain on his bedroom ceiling and listening to his grandma Velma recite the kings and queens of England to keep her mind sharp. He lives with her because his parents are absent from his life. Occasionally his mother pops in for a visit. Popeye sees his life as boring until the day the Holiday Rambler gets stuck in the mud near his h ...more
Feb 19, 2014 M. rated it really liked it
I think this is a book that will grow on me as I think about it. I liked it, but I think I am going to continue to like it more and more as time goes by. How do you write a book about nothing? And make it into something? How do you capture South Carolina back country dialect without making the kids into stereotypes? How can you get so well into the thought processes of 10-year old boys?

Popeye lives with his grandmother and his uncle, Dooley, because his father lives somewhere else and his mother
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Barbara O'Connor's awards include the Parents Choice Gold and Silver Award, American Library Association Notable Books, IRA Notable Books for a Global Society, School Library Journal Best Books, and Kirkus Best Books. Her books have been nominated for children's choice awards in 38 states and voted as a state favorite by children in South Carolina, Indiana, Kansas, and South Dakota.

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