Saturday, February 20, 2010
The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis
Popeye is ready to spend yet another day in his regular life, with his bedroom ceiling dripping rusty water and listening to his grandmother Velma recite British royalty in order of reign to prevent herself from cracking up. It's been raining for a week, and Popeye feels like he is the one who is going to crack up!
Once the rain finally stops, Popeye takes the opportunity to get out of the house. He is walking down the road, pitching stones into the ditch when he sees it – a big motor home that is “tilted precariously to the side, one of its giant wheels sunk deep down into the gloppy red mud of the road”. (p.12)
Popeye’s summer, and his life, are about to change.
The owners of the motor home are a family with a passel of rag tag kids who quickly induct Popeye into their Spit and Swear club. The eldest, named Elvis, takes an interest in Popeye and soon the two are inseparable -- having small adventures for at least as long as the motor home is stuck in the mud. They spit and swear, discover Yoo-Hoo boats filled mysterious notes and soon Popeye has dreams of hopping on the motor-home and finding adventures that are even bigger. Each day Popeye hopes that his Uncle Dooley, who is supposed to dig the motor home out, will stay true to his nature and not get it done!
On the surface, this book penned by Barbara O'Connor seems to be simply about a summertime adventure that happens to blow into town, but dig a little deeper. Popeye, who has always listened to Velma before, tries on defiance for the first time, not just for the sake of making trouble either. In the name of adventure, he is willing to risk Velma’s wrath. After Popeye and Elvis meet Starletta (a girl who lives through the woods and down the creek) readers can feel Popeye’s inhibitions and apathy peeling away. Dreams start to seed, and readers will believe that Popeye will not end up like his Uncle Dooley…he’s made of bigger stuff.