Katie Reads: Flora and Ulysses

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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 the 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.

From #1 New York Times best-selling author Kate DiCamillo comes a laugh-out-loud story filled with eccentric, endearing characters and featuring an exciting new format—a novel interspersed with comic-style graphic sequences and full-page illustrations, all rendered in black-and-white by up-and-coming artist K. G. Campbell.

My friend won a copy of this at a teacher training we both went to and was kind enough to share it with me because SQUIRRELS. I love squirrels and this book promised a squirrel as a main character (I even wore my squirrel sweater to celebrate reading this book). Which means I’m sad that I didn’t love this book.

The book started so promising. We had the kooky Flora and then we added a squirrel that by tragic circumstances was sucked up by a vacuum cleaner and gained super powers. This book should have been the super amazing adventures of Flora and her super powered squirrel Ulysses. It would have been cute and hilarious. But that’s not the story this book told. Instead I’m actually very confused as to the story that the book was trying to tell. It seemed like the book was confused too. Many subplots happened, most of which featured odd characters and incidents and were amusing on their own, but which didn’t seem to come together to form anything cohesive.

I’m all for quirky characters, but this book was bloated with them. Same for using big, SAT words. I love that a kids book didn’t shy away from using big words, but DiCamillo chose a few and then used them to the point of exhaustion. We get it, Flora is a “cynic”, and you love the word “malfeasance”.

Ulysses the squirrel was my favorite part of the book. He gains superpowers yet focuses his energy on being hungry and writing poetry. Which made for an awesome character, but was disappointing from a plot standpoint in that I wanted the squirrel with superpowers to actually have a superhero plot line. But Ulysses was still the best.

Flora and Ulysses was entertaining enough, but I’m surprised it won a Newbery.

Stay magical readers!

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