• Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis - Barbara O'ConnorSee larger image
See Hi-Res Jpeg image

email/print EmailPrint

The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis

Awards: American Library Association Notable Children's Books; CYBIL Award; NYPL Book for Reading and Sharing; Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year; California Young Reader Medal Master List; Kansas City KC3 Reading Award Master List; Maine Student Book Award Master List; Mississippi Magnolia; South Carolina Children's Book Award Master List; Texas Horn Toad Tales Master List; Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award Master List

Recommendations: Booklist; Bulletin-Center Child Books; Horn Book; Publishers Weekly, Starred; School Library Journal, Starred Review

Share this book with friends through your favorite social networking site. Share:           Bookmark and Share
Add this title to your virtual bookshelves at any of these book community sites. Shelve:             
sign up to get updates about this author
add this book's widget
to your site or blog

About The Author

Barbara O'ConnorBarbara O'Connor

Barbara O’Connor is the author of numerous acclaimed books for children, including Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia; Me and Rupert Goody; Greetings from Nowhere and How to Steal a Dog. She has been awarded the Parents’ Choice Gold and Silver Awards, the Massachusetts Book... More

photo: Photo by Bill O'Connor


American Library Association Notable Children's Books
NYPL Book for Reading and Sharing
Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year
California Young Reader Medal Master List
Kansas City KC3 Reading Award Master List
Maine Student Book Award Master List
Mississippi Magnolia
South Carolina Children's Book Award Master List
Texas Horn Toad Tales Master List
Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award Master List


Bulletin-Center Child Books
Horn Book
Publishers Weekly, Starred
School Library Journal, Starred Review

Stay In Touch

Sign up to recieve information about new releases, author appearances, special offers, all related to you favorite authors and books.

Other Books You Might Like

cover Buy

More formats
On the Road to Mr. Mineo's

Square Fish
Summer days drift by slowly in Meadville, South Carolina—that is, until Sherman the one-legged pigeon flies into town and causes a ruckus. First Stella, who's...
cover Buy

More formats
The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester

Square Fish
Once you’ve finally captured the most enormous frog in Carter, Georgia, what exactly are you supposed to do with it?
cover Buy

More formats
How to Steal a Dog

Square Fish
Georgina Hayes may be homeless, but she’s not hopeless.
cover Buy

More formats
Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia

Square Fish
Will a spelling bee be the answer to all of Bird’s problems? All her life, all Bird has ever wanted is to be noticed in her small town and to get to Disney...
cover Buy

More formats
Greetings from Nowhere

Frances Foster Books
Aggie isn’t expecting visitors at the Sleepy Time Motel in the Great Smoky Mountains. Since her husband died, she is all alone with her cat, Ugly, and keeping...
cover Buy
Taking Care of Moses

Frances Foster Books
Who left the baby at the Rock of Ages Baptist Church? Randall Mackey has a secret. He knows who left the baby on the steps of the Rock of Ages Baptist...
cover Buy
Moonpie and Ivy

Frances Foster Books
A girl abandoned by her mother discovers the feeling of family Pearl's mother, Ruby, just up and left her with Aunt Ivy, who's a complete stranger to Pearl....
cover Buy
Me and Rupert Goody

Frances Foster Books
Learning to share love Things at Jennalee's house are just plain crazy, which is why she loves her predictable days helping Uncle Beau (who isn't really her...
cover Buy

More formats
The Late Scholar
Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane Investigate

Minotaur Books
When a dispute among the Fellows of St. Severin's College, Oxford University, reaches a stalemate, Lord Peter Wimsey discovers that as the Duke of Denver he is...
cover Buy

More formats
Audio eBook
Ladies' Night

St. Martin's Griffin
Take a splash of betrayal, add a few drops of outrage, give a good shake to proper behavior and take a big sip of a cocktail called…Ladies' Night!   Grace...
cover Buy
Sticker Activity ABC

Priddy Books
Children will love learning the alphabet as the find the stickers, answer the questions, and color the pictures in this fun activity book! Featuring over 100 stickers.


Popeye opened his eye and looked up at the heart-shaped stain on the ceiling of his bedroom. Rusty water squeezed out of the hole in the peeling plaster and dropped onto the foot of his bed.
It had been raining for over a week.
All day.
Every day.
The stain on the ceiling used to be a tiny circle. Popeye had watched it grow a little more each day.
He got out of bed and nudged Boo with his foot. The old dog lifted his head and looked up at Popeye, his sagging skin drooping down over his sad, watery eyes.
“Still raining,” Popeye said.
Boo’s big, heavy head flopped back down on the floor, and he let out a long, low dog groan.
Popeye padded across the cracked linoleum floor of the hallway and into the bathroom. He splashed water on his face and ran his wet fingers over his head. The stubble of his new summer buzz cut felt scratchy, like a cat’s tongue. His white scalp showed through his pale blond hair.
He examined his teeth in the mirror.
They looked clean.
He rubbed his good eye.
Then he rubbed his bad eye. The one that was always squinted shut thanks to his uncle Dooley.
Popeye hadn’t always been Popeye. Before he was three years old, he had been Henry.
But when he was three, his uncle Dooley had placed a small green crab apple on the fence post out back and turned to his girlfriend and said, “Watch this, Charlene.”
Then he had walked back twenty paces, like a gunslinger, taken aim with his Red Ryder BB gun, and pulled the trigger.
Dooley was not a very good aim.
Charlene was not impressed.
When the BB hit Henry square in the eye, she had screamed bloody murder and carried on so much that when Popeye’s grandmother, Velma, came run­ning out of the house to see what all the fuss was about, she had thought it was Charlene who’d been shot in the eye.
Popeye had been Popeye ever since.
And Charlene was long gone. (Which hadn’t bothered Dooley one little bit ’cause there were plenty more where she came from.)
Popeye went up the hall to the kitchen, his bare feet stirring up little puffs of dust on the floor. Velma didn’t care much about keeping a clean house. She mainly cared about not cracking up.
“You get old, you crack up,” she told Popeye when she couldn’t find her reading glasses or opened the closet door and forgot why.
While Popeye made toast with powdered sugar on top, Velma sat at the kitchen table with her eyes closed, reciting the kings and queens of England in chronological order.
“Edward V, Richard III, Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I . . .”
Popeye knew that when she got to the last one, Elizabeth II, she would probably start all over again.
“Egbert, Ethelwulf, Ethelbald, Ethelbert . . .”
Reciting the kings and queens of England in chronological order was exercising Velma’s brain and keeping her from cracking up.
But sometimes, Popeye worried that it wasn’t working.
This was a big worry.
Popeye needed Velma to not crack up because no one else in his family was very good at taking care of things.
Not his father, who lived up in Chattanooga and sold smoke-damaged rugs out of the back of a pickup truck.
Not his mother, who came and went but never told anybody where she came from or where she went to.
And definitely not his 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.
Popeye’s grandmother, Velma, was the only one good at taking care of things.
“Edward VIII, George VI, Elizabeth II.” Velma opened her eyes. Instead of starting all over again with Egbert, she shuffled over to the kitchen counter and poured herself a cup of coffee.
“Hey there, burrhead,” she said, running her hand over Popeye’s fuzzy buzz cut.
“What’re you gonna do today?”
Popeye shrugged.
“This dern rain is driving me nuts,” she said, stir­ring a heaping spoonful of sugar into her coffee.
Popeye stared out at the muddy yard. A waterfall of rust-colored rainwater poured off the edge of the metal roof of the shed out back and made a river. The river snaked its way down the gravel driveway and into the drainage ditch that ran along the side of the road. The ditch was nearly overflowing. Every now and then, soda cans or plastic bags floated by in front of the house.
Boo ambled into the kitchen and ate a scrap of toast off the floor under the table, his tail wagging in slow motion.
Back . . .
And forth.
Back . . .
And forth.
Popeye licked powdered sugar off his fingers and went into the living room.
Dooley was stretched out on the couch, snoring one of those throat-gurgling kinds of snores. The smell of cigarettes hovered in the air around him and clung to the worn corduroy couch.
Popeye flopped into Velma’s big armchair. The metal tray table beside it was stacked with crossword puzzle magazines. Crossword puzzles were good brain exercises, too. Velma knew more words than anybody. She taught Popeye one new word every week. He wrote it on the patio with sidewalk chalk and studied it until it got smudged up by Dooley’s worn-out work boots or washed away by the rain.
This week’s word was vicissitude, but he hadn’t been able to write it on the patio yet because of the rain.
vicissitude: noun; a change of circumstances,
typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant
Popeye slouched down in the chair and slapped his bare foot on the floor.
He looked out the window, wishing that maybe some vicissitude would come along and make this dern rain stop. Even something unwelcome or un­pleasant would probably be better than this.
He watched a fly land on Dooley’s big toe.
He wrote vicissitude with his finger on the flow­ered fabric of Velma’s chair.
He scooped saltine cracker crumbs off the coffee table and tossed them over to Boo, who had settled onto his raggedy quilt by the woodstove.
The hands of the clock over the couch jerked noisily.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Around and around.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Popeye was beginning to hate that clock. He was sick to high heaven of watching it turn minutes into hours and hours into days.
Every day the same.
So what if the rain stopped? Popeye thought.
It would still be boring.
It would always be boring in Fayette, South Car­olina.
Every day would always be the same.
Popeye was certain about that.
But Popeye was wrong.
Because that very day, that day with the rain dripping out of the heart-shaped stain on the ceiling and that fly sitting there on Dooley’s big toe, things changed.
Elvis came to town.
Excerpted from The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis by Barbara O'Connor.
Copyright © 2009 by Barbara O'Connor.
Published in 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and
reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in
any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

You May Also Be Interested In

cover Buy
Max's Words

Frances Foster Books
Max’s brothers have grand collections that everyone makes a big fuss over. Benjamin collects stamps and Karl collects coins, and neither one will share with...
cover Buy
Brave Irene

Square Fish
Mrs. Bobbin isn’t feeling very well and can’t deliver the beautiful ball gown she’s made for the duchess to wear that very evening. Even though it’s snowing...
cover Buy
Leon's Story

Square Fish
"Leon's Story is a powerful, wonderful thing!" -- Nikki Giovanni I remember that as a young boy I used to look in the mirror and I would curse my color, my...