Flora is a cynical child, a comic book fan who has memorized all of the issues of Terrible Things Can Happen to You. Ulysses is an unsuspecting squirrel, who after being sucked into a vacuum cleaner, becomes an unsuspected superhero. Gifted with the powers of flight and poetry (yes, poetry!), Ulysses and Flora experience a series of adventures as they attempt to thwart the super-villain (Flora’s romance-writing mother). Along the way they get help from an unlikely set of characters – the temporarily-blind boy next door, William Spiver, his wacky Aunt Tooty, Flora’s socially inept father, and the odd Dr. Meecham. There are giant donuts, bad poetry, shepherdesses, and a bag and a shovel.
The story moves quickly and is at times laugh-out-loud funny. Flora’s cynicism can be both amusing and sad as she struggles with her parents’ divorce and her mother’s inattention. These are the illuminated adventures, so parts of the story are told through charming comic strips where we get to see Ulysses in action! Unfortunately, as cute as the comics were, it did make it more difficult to read aloud. Ultimately, Ulysses is the star of the show (I will never look at a squirrel the same again!) and helps Flora to be less of a cynic, to learn to believe and love and hope.
I was so excited to get my hands on Kate DiCamillo’s newest book! As I’ve discussed before, I love Kate DiCamillo, and I have read all of her books with my kids. My favorite book to read aloud of all time is The Tale of Despereaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane broke my heart. Flora & Ulysses was different, although that doesn’t make it bad, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. And while my family enjoyed it, and “Holy bagumba!” is now my daughter’s favorite exclamation, I was hoping for just a little something more.
Title: Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Publication: Candlewick, September 2013