From the January/February issue of Horn Book Magazine:
The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis
by Barbara O’Connor
Intermediate Foster/Farrar 150 pp.
Living with his grandmother and good-for-nothing uncle, Dooley, Popeye (so named courtesy of Dooley’s poor shooting with a BB gun) sees his summer in Fayette, South Carolina, passing with the same dull, steady speed as the water dripping from his ceiling. There’s nothing to do and nobody to do it with—until a stranger, one Elvis Jewell, comes to town.
Elvis, his parents, and a passel of younger brothers and sisters are stuck—or, to be more exact, their glorious silver Holiday Rambler motor home, decorated with bumper stickers, lightning bolts, and a howling coyote, is stuck—in Fayette’s mud. Elvis, who spits and swears, is a bad-boy kind of leader. So when he suggests, “Let’s have a small adventure,” Popeye, naively convinced that adventure must indeed lie just around the corner, readily agrees. The two go deep into the forbidden woods, follow clues stuck in paper boats, solve a series of riddles, and find a friend in this small slice of life.
Never overdoing the colloquial expressions, O’Connor captures South Carolina speech patterns; she quietly paces the narrative, often placing short sentences in a vertical sequence for emphasis. Yes, sometimes the best gifts come in small packages. --Betty Carter