Thursday, December 5, 2013

Flora and Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo

It's hard to know where to begin with this one. Flora and Ulysses is a MG story that's part "regular" text and part graphic novel; part light and part serious; part fantasy and part realistic. It's funny and original.

It all begins the way superhero tales normally do: a freak accident endows somebody with superpowers. In this case, "somebody" is a squirrel who gets vacuumed up by an ultra-powerful vacuum cleaner, the Ulysses 2000X, and when resuscitated by the main character, Flora, has become a squirrel that has can lift large objects, understand English, and write poetry. Flora believes it's her mission to help the squirrel, whom she names Ulysses, to fulfill his destiny and vanquish his arch-nemesis. But what if his arch-nemesis turns out to be Flora's mother?

This book is filled with quirky characters, including Flora, who is a self-described cynic (which we learn is how she deals with the pain of her parents' divorce), both her parents, the neighbor lady who received the vacuum as a birthday gift from her husband, and the great-nephew she watches, a boy Flora's age who is temporarily blind due to family trauma of his own. Quirky isn't normally my taste, really, and you have to suspend disbelief to accept this many characters who are this quirky in one small geographical area (and two kids, ages ten and eleven, who can use such big words), but the good writing and the charm and the humor and the underlying poignancy drew me in and held me fast. You just might have to be Kate DiCamillo to pull this off, and she does. Recommended.

13 comments:

Leandra Wallace said...

I've read this! It was really good. Of course, I love just about anything Kate writes- she's my MG superhero. And that was really corny, but oh well! =)

Barbara Watson said...

I want to read this one! And...Kate lives in my city and will be at a local bookstore this Saturday promoting Flora & Ulysses. :-)

Marcia said...

Leandra -- Oh, we book people are all corny at one time or another. :)

Barbara -- And let me guess -- you're going? :)

Vijaya said...

I loved this but then again, I've loved everything KdC has written, but my kids are losing that sense of magic and fun and anything is possible. Sigh. They liked the human characters but thought it was silly about the squirrel.

Mirka Breen said...

Leave it to DiCamillo to break barriers and challenge conventional categories.

Marcia said...

Vijaya -- They may be growing into their YA reading tastes, which are less silly. Flora is only ten, after all. It'll seem less silly to them when they're adults, I'll bet.

Mirka -- So true!

Emily R. King said...

A squirrel sucked up by a vacuum. I can't help but smile at that. :)

Thanks for the review!

Bish Denham said...

I've like everything she's written, so I'll probably like this one too!

Dawn Malone said...

Love her! This sounds delightful; thanks for the review!

Kim Van Sickler said...

I love it when writers play around with form. I like to do the same thing! And of course Kate would be able to pull it off.

cleemckenzie said...

Sounds like Kate is experimenting and it's paying off! Thanks, Marcia.

Marcia said...

Emily -- I know! The beginning really gets off to a funny start.

Bish -- I've no doubt!

Dawn -- Me too, and you're welcome. :)

Kim -- I think one of the big advantages of being a successful writer is being trusted to try weirder things. :)

Lee -- Yes, trying new things is good!

TerryLynnJohnson said...

I enjoyed this one too!