'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Review: Flora and Ulysses

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures begins with a squirrel being swallowed by a vacuum cleaner. That sets the scene for an unusual and rather difficult to describe story by Kate DiCamillo, which won the 2014 Newbery Award. Flora and Ulysses is told in words and pictures, with soft, black and white illustrations by K. G. Campbell in both full page and comic strip style.

Flora, who saw the squirrel get stuck, comes to its rescue by providing CPR, something she learnt by reading her favourite superhero comic, The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto. Ulysses is what Flora names the squirrel, whose encounter with the vacuum cleaner has unexpected consequences - he has acquired superpowers, or at least powers he didn’t have before, like being able to understand what Flora says. Ulysses is certainly an unusual squirrel!


Poor Ulysses has experienced being “stalked, chased, threatened, poisoned, etc.” Now Flora’s mother wants Flora’s father to “put the squirrel out of its misery,” but Flora is determined to save him.

Flora’s cynicism doesn’t stop her from seeing what she reads reflected in the events of her life, and she often responds using advice from comics. In fact, in her head she is creating a comic book of her own (some of which is depicted in the comic strip style pictures throughout the story). Could the dogged William Spiver from next door be the comic book villain? Or perhaps someone closer to home, like Flora’s mother?

Flora is an unusual girl who grows through the course of the story, finding a new understanding of herself and her family, while her family are reminded to show their appreciation for Flora, too.

Watch an interview with author Kate DiCamillo about Flora & Ulysses here.

Title: Flora and Ulysses: the illuminated adventures
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: K. G. Campbell
Publisher: Candlewick Press, $19.95 RRP
Publication Date: September 2013
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780763660406
For ages: 8-12
Type: Junior Fiction

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