Monday, February 8, 2010

Freshly-Brewed Monday Book Recommendation #6!- The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis

A Small Adventure is a wonderful thing.

"Mom, where are our set-up army guys?"

The set-up army guys aren't really all army guys. They are mostly army guys (some green and some tan), with a few civil war soldiers (some blue some gray) and a couple of yellow and red Native American Indians. The cowboys are gone. And all the guys are tiny, plastic and their feet melt into a small puddle that helps them stand steady, sort of.

My three boys, sometimes with a friend or two, strategically place all the set-up guys throughout a dry dirt path that winds its way through a massive amount of ivy in our backyard. Once everyone agrees that all the set-up guys are in the right place- in the creek-bed, on a flat rock, under a droopy leaf, the faucet gets cranked on and the hose introduces a whole new element into the game. Sometimes it's a slow drip, sometimes its more torrential but it's always fun and they never tire of it.  

 The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis is about finding something to do. Something different, something unusual, something that makes today special. Popeye lives a slow-paced life in Fayette, North Carolina with his Grandma Velma who "he needed not to crack up because no one else was very good at taking care of things. Not his father who lived in Chatanooga and sold smoke-damaged rugs out of the back of a pick-up truck. Not his mother who came and went but never told anbody where she came from or where she went to. And definitely not Uncle Dooley, who lived in a rusty trailer in the backyard and sometimes worked at the meatpacking plant and sometimes sold aluminum siding and sometimes watched TV all day."

When a Holiday Rambler, filled with a boisterous excitable family, gets stuck in the mud while cruising through town, Popeye meets his new friend, Elvis. The two decide that what they need is a small adventure, and soon the boys come upon boats made out of paper yoo-hoo cartons floating down a creek with hidden messages tucked inside. The boys must figure out what the notes mean, who is sending them and they must do it fast, before the Holiday Rambler is out of the mud and Elvis's family rolls on out of Fayette.

The simplicity of Barbara O'Connor's writing is refreshing and clean. This is a great little new book that feels like classic. In my opinion, that is a hard find for an early chapter book that appeals to boys. A hidden little perk are the vocabulary words Popeye's Grandma Velma is memorizing: cajole, divert and connive just to name a few.

My 9 yr. old and 6 yr. old both loved it as a read-aloud. Plenty to giggle about with a touch a mystery. It might even inspire you to set out on a small adventure of you own, something that might even be more fun than the army set-up guys!   


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