Book Review: Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

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Title: Flora & Ulysses

Author: Kate DiCamillo

Illustrator: K.G. Cambell

Genre: Middle grade

Kate DiCamillo never, ever disappoints. I have long loved Because of Winn-Dixie, and all of her other subsequent books. She’s an author that you are never too old to read! Flora & Ulysses comes very, very close to out-ranking Winn-Dixie as my all-time favorite DiCamillo book.

Flora & Ulysses is written in a new format for the author, with comic-book style sequences and full-page illustrations dispersed between the text. The story is about a 10-year old cynic named Flora, who one day saves a squirrel that has accidentally been sucked up into her neighbor’s vacuum cleaner. She performs CPR, the squirrel is saved, and soon they find out that this little squirrel now has superpowers! It comes as a surprise to both Flora and the squirrel, who is coined Ulysses after the vacuum that gave him his newfound powers.

What are these powers you ask? He can type! He can fly! He can type poetry!

Sounds weird, doesn’t it? ANY other author, and this story would have fallen flat on its face. But in the hands of the gifted Kate DiCamillo, it soars. It is hilarious and incredibly touching, all at the same time. It is certainly worthy of the 2014 Newbery Medal it received.

You see, Flora’s parents recently went through a divorce, and both Flora and her parents seem to be floundering in an attempt to find their new normal. Flora uses her cynicism as a way to protect her capacious heart, until Ulysses comes along and opens it up. Flora & Ulysses is a story of loneliness, and longing, despite the whimsical and silly tone.

“Bah, cynics,” said Dr. Meescham. “Cynics are people who are afraid to believe.”

Kate DiCamillo is a master of the art of storytelling, as I had the pleasure to witness first-hand at the Festival of Books and Authors last weekend. Every question that was asked by the audience, she managed to turn into a delightful story in her response. We were all spellbound. I look forward to reading her latest book, Raymie Nightingale, and she said she is currently working on her next novel! No details were given, but I can’t wait to find out what it is.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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