soup of the day: the small adventure of popeye and elvis!


Calling all readers who love adventure!

We have a very good reason for Yoohooing and Woohooing and twirling ourselves silly with excitement, because it’s official pub day for Barbara O’Connor’s brand new middle grade novel, The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis (FSG, 2009)!!

(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009), Ages 8-12, 160 pp.

It’s always such a treat whenever Barbara publishes a new book; you know you will fall in love with the characters even before you meet them. I’ve been following the book’s progress on Barbara’s blog, from the time she announced the title, which still makes me smile every time I see it, to the arrival of her author’s copies.

Since I thoroughly enjoyed her last two books, How to Steal a Dog (FSG, 2007), and Greetings from Nowhere (FSG, 2008), I simply can’t wait to enter the world of her new book, which is set in Fayette, South Carolina, and was inspired in part by a funky trailer park near her home.

      photos by lisby1 and vittorioveneto.

It’s the beginning of summer, and Popeye is bored, bored, bored. He lives with his dog, Boo, and grandmother, Velma, who works on crossword puzzles and incessantly recites the kings and queens of England in chronological order to keep herself sane. She also likes to give Popeye vocabulary words every week for mental exercise. But beyond that, what else is there to do when you live down a quiet gravel road by the woods? Things look pretty dismal until a shiny silver motor home, carrying a pack of rowdy kids, makes a wrong turn and gets stuck in the mud near Popeye’s house.

Popeye is fascinated by the entire Jewell family, who are a quirky, noisy bunch — a mom who writes country western songs, and six
kids — Prissy, Walter, Willis, Calvin, Shorty, and the boy Popeye especially admires, Elvis. He’s taken with Elvis’s ability to swear and say, "So what," like he really means it. Besides, the Jewells’ nomadic lifestyle seems far more interesting and exciting than anything Popeye has ever experienced.

photo by minmay.

He is thrilled when Elvis names him Senior Vice President of the "Spit and Swear Club," and suggests they find an adventure. After looking and looking, the perfect adventure comes drifting down the creek, in the form of little boats fashioned from Yoo-hoo cartons, each containing an intriguing message. Of course Popeye and Elvis simply must find out who is sending these notes and why.

I love the premise, and can’t wait to see what the boys discover. Reviewers have cited Barbara’s spare, rhythmic prose, her ability to create a believable setting with just the right amount of telling detail, and, of course, her brilliantly drawn characters, which Bill at Literate Lives called "strong and original."

       Bo Jangles and Cornelius have their own small adventure 
       (paper plates like the Jewell kids, and goldfish, Barb’s favorite snack).

This simple, no frills adventure seems the perfect antidote for the pressures of a society that forces kids to grow up too fast and crave materialistic things. It really harkens back to the idea of "making your own fun" and treasuring time spent with newfound friends. The book will appeal to both boys and girls who enjoy reading about real kids in a realistic setting.

So far, The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis has received two bright and shiny *starred reviews*!

Although O’Connor only briefly describes the characters, each one comes instantly and distinctly to life. Fast-paced, short and easy to read, but spiced up with the challenging vocabulary words that Velma teaches and Popeye adores and abounding with quirky, likable characters, this small gem has the power to keep readers entranced. ~ Kirkus

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. ~ School Library Journal   

photo by KT of Lake Orion.

I think Barbara more than deserves our hearty congratulations for those glowing accolades. I bet she’s seasoned the story with just the right amount of Southern flavor and charm! All together now, with feeling:

Three times.)

You rock!!!

Okay. Time to step up to the river bank, grab a straw, and sip a cartonful of celebration soup. Thanks, Barb, for writing another story straight from your "heart’s home!"

Today’s Special: Spit and Swear Soup (guaranteed to spark adventure).

Adventures can make a person mighty hungry, so we’re adding another treat to go with your soup today, little spinach quiches made with Popeye’s signature ingredients:

photo by

According to the book’s trailer, the adventure also came about because of "a girl with butterfly wings." May as well honor her important role in the story with some butterfly cookie pops for dessert:

photo by Montreal Confections.

And since we don’t want Elvis to feel left out, enjoy these peanut butter and banana cupcakes:

photo by natalie. . .

Okay, since you’re all spinached up, hike on down to your local indie, or order The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis online. Don’t forget to ripple your pecs or flex your biceps for the salesperson. And, check your libraries, too. If they don’t have the book listed in their catalog, ask them to order it!

                                     ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


Check out Barbara O’Connor’s official website and blog, Greetings-from-Nowhere.

Book trailer can be found here.

Great online reviews at Literate Lives (photo mosaic) and Kirby’s Lane (fair amount of cussing).

Wonderful interviews with Barbara discussing this book can be found at MotherReader and Kirby’s Lane.

More Soup of the Day posts here.

Copyright © 2009 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

16 thoughts on “soup of the day: the small adventure of popeye and elvis!

  1. Ooh! Looks so good, and I love her writing. Thank you for the heads-up! I just requested it from the liberry.



  2. Ohmygosh!!!! Jama, I am stunned! This is amazing and awesome, just like you are! Thanks so very much. (And goldfish!! And a treat for Ruby and Boo! and soup in a Yoohoo carton!!!)


  3. Thank YOU, Barbara! The bears are ecstatic over having Yoo-hoo and goldfish to feast on all day long. As for me, I’m super hyped to read the book! LOVE the title, love love it. 🙂


  4. I feel the same way. I’m sure it comes from already loving Barbara’s writing from her other books, and anticipating getting to know more wonderful characters and generally feeling sure that you’ll always be in a good, uplifting place in one of her stories.


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