Beverly B, March 3, 2014 (view all comments by Beverly B)
Flora and Ulysses should be sub-titled "A Best Friend Can Make Things Better". It is a funny sweet beautifully written story of a lonely girl whose fantasy of a superhero best friend comes true when a squirrel gets sucked up by a super-vacuum, is rescued by Flora, and emerges alive with new powers. Students will love Flora and Ulysses and will be engaged in the debacles that follow the two. They will connect with Flora as her cynicism melts into affection and optimism. They will laugh at the squirrel who worries more about getting doughnuts than he does about the perils that follow him. They will learn many very advanced vocabulary words from Flora's love of important word choice.
The Lost Entwife, January 15, 2014 (view all comments by The Lost Entwife)
One of the things I love most about reading middle grade books is how a really complex message is written to convey something very deep and meaningful. Kate DiCamillo is one of the authors that does this extremely well - which is one of the reasons for her popularity, I am sure. Still, when I saw what Flora and Ulysses was about, I was a bit hesitant. I mean.. a squirrel? as a main character? Really? But it worked. Let me tell you why.
I teach piano for a living. Many of my students are in the 4-6 year age range and one of the things that I've learned over the years of teaching is that in order to get a message across well, I need to bring a third party into the lesson. Thankfully, the method books I use understand this as well and so with a little help from Faber and Faber, I bring in characters that live on the pages of the method book - in particular, a little firefly named Tap. Lessons pass by so smoothly because Tap not only is there to offer encouragement to the student, but he's there to sympathize. When a student struggles, I can show him that Tap is there and he also is learning right along side that student. When a student does well, Tap celebrates with them.
So, with that thought and lesson in mind, I approached Ulysses the Squirrel with a different mindset and what I took away from DiCamillo's tale is a story that deals well with the separation of parents through the medium of a fantastical creature who is able to listen, sympathize, and love unconditionally. Also, he can write poetry.
That's gold in a middle grade book, folks. Sure, there's humor and silliness and moments where the story might drag a little bit, but ultimately, the message comes across loud and clear. Establishing a relationship with a parent or sibling or anyone close to you doesn't just go away when things don't work out between that person and another in your life - yes, that's a great message, but ultimately the message that it's important to know that the feelings that happen when the split happens are not to be lightly dismissed and to look and find where the strengths are in those relationships to pull you through. That's what Flora and Ulysses spoke to me about and I'm glad that I am not too old to be taught something by a book that may come off as simple, but in reality, is something quite else.
Lisa Combs, October 9, 2013 (view all comments by Lisa Combs)
DiCamillo has done it again. Within the pages of Flora and Ulysses, she takes you into the realm of tender emotion, angst and self reliance. A super squirrel? Yes, you want to read about this super squirrel and his friend. Young readers through adults will turn the pages in delight as adventures unfurl and revelations come to light. Don't let this be the only DiCamillo book you read.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (4 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)
Lisa Combs, October 9, 2013 (view all comments by Lisa Combs)
DiCamillo has done it again. Within the pages of Flora and Ulysses she takes you into the realm of tender emotion, angst and self reliance. A super squirrel? Yes, you want to read about this super squirrel and his friend. Young readers through adults will turn the pages in delight as adventures unfurl and revelations come to light. Don't let this be the only DiCamillo book you read.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (3 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)
In her new novel, Kate DiCamillo once again weaves an enchanting tale, this time involving an eccentric squirrel and Flora, a true cynic. A story filled with warmth, hope, change, and magic, featuring full-page graphic-style illustrations, Flora and Ulysses becomes a true celebration of life.
by Richard C.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Newbery Medalist DiCamillo and illustrator Campbell meld prose with comics sequences in a broad comedy tinged with sadness. Bitter about her parents' divorce, Flora Buckman has withdrawn into her favorite comic book, The Amazing Incandesto! and memorized the advisories in its ongoing bonus feature, Terrible Things Can Happen to You! She puts those life-saving tips into action when a squirrel is swallowed whole by a neighbor's new vacuum cleaner, the Ulysses Super-Suction Multi-Terrain 2000X. Flora resuscitates the squirrel, christens him after the vacuum, and witnesses a superhero-like transformation: Ulysses is now über-strong, can fly, and composes poetry. Despite supremely quirky characters and dialogue worthy of an SAT prep class, there's real emotion at the heart of this story involving two kids who have been failed by the most important people in their lives: their parents. It's into this profound vacuum that Ulysses really flies, demonstrating an unconditional love for his rescuer, trumped only perhaps by his love for food and a desire 'to make the letters on the keyboard speak the truth of his heart.' Ages 10up. Author's agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties. Illustrator's agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
by Booklist (starred review),
"Newbery-winner DiCamillo is a master storyteller not just because she creates characters who dance off the pages and plots, whether epic or small, that never fail to engage and delight readers. Her biggest strength is exposing the truths that open and heal the human heart. She believes in possibilities and forgiveness and teaches her audience that the salt of life can be cut with the right measure of love."
by Kirkus Reviews (starred review),
"Original, touching and oh-so-funny tale starring an endearingly implausible superhero and a not-so-cynical girl."
by School Library Journal (starred review),
"Rife with marvelously rich vocabulary reminiscent of the early superhero era (e.g., 'Holy unanticipated occurrences!') and amusing glimpses at the world from the point of view of Ulysses the supersquirrel, this book will appeal to a broad audience of sophisticated readers. There are plenty of action sequences, but the novel primarily dwells in the realm of sensitive, hopeful, and quietly philosophical literature."
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