Thursday, November 6, 2014

Review: Flora & Ulysses - Kate DiCamillo

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Genre: Middle Grade, whimsy
Published on September 24, 2013
Published by Candlewick Press
Pages: 233
Read From: 10.4.14 - 10.11.14

It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry - and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart.


Once again, I am having to abandon my usual reviewing format - mostly because this book was too short to really fit that format, and also because I'm just having trouble putting into words why I liked about Flora & Ulysses so much. 

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures is pretty classic Kate DiCamillo. It's whimsical, has a touch of humor, animal characters, and a brave hero and heroine. It follows the improbable adventures of self-proclaimed cynic Flora Belle Buckman and a squirrel who is sucked into a vacuum cleaner, only to be revived and develop superpowers. The world has become brighter to Ulysses, and he can now fly, type, and has incredible strength (as well as an incredible appetite, even for a squirrel). The villain of their story is Flora's own mother, a romance novelist, who just wants Flora to be "normal," and having a superhero squirrel certainly doesn't fit into that equation. In Flora's quest to both discover what great feat she and Ulysses are suppose to do - and keeping Ulysses safe from her villainness mother, - they meet several other unique and strange characters along the way: William Spiver, a "temporarily blind" boy; Tootie, who is absolutely in love with poetry, and many others.

The story is told in both writing and snatches of comic book-style strips. Given Flora's obsession with comic book superheroes, this style worked really well for Flora & Ulysses, and I really enjoyed it. The writing style itself was filled with Kate DiCamillo's classic humor and charm. It doesn't talk down to its audience at all.

This may not be the most thorough review I've ever written, but Kate DiCamillo's books are always hard to put into words. They are just something you have to experience. Flora & Ulysses is fun, charming, and can just be a quirky little story about a cynical girl and a squirrel with superpowers - or it can be a deeper story about family, friends, and caring. Either way, it won't disappoint.

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