Saturday, February 22, 2014


Flora and Ulysses 
by Kate DiCamillo
*****5 of 5 stars

Candlewick Press
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Genre: Middle-grade, graphic novel
Pages: 233
Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

Holy unanticipated occurrences! A cynic meets an unlikely superhero in a genre-breaking new novel by master storyteller Kate DiCamillo. 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.

This book kicks off like any well-known superhero story: an unexpected event leads to unexpected greatness. Flora, an eccentric, self-proclaimed cynic, spares Ulysses (a squirrel) from a tragic death, thanks to guidance from her comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You! This book follow the adventures of Flora and Ulysses as they discover Ulysses' new powers, and as Flora finds she is capable of hope and love.

"Holy unanticipated occurrences!" This quote from the book completely sums up my reaction to it. I was floored by how incredible this story was. It was filled with love, passion, and friendship; showing the true goodness of people and what can happen if you hope and believe in something. It was refreshing to look through the eyes of a young, restless, innocent soul (not to mention through the eyes--or stomach--of a squirrel at various points in the story). I was, quite literally, laughing out loud throughout the entire book.

Kate DiCamillo has such a talent for taking the unique perspective and quirkiness of childhood and turning it into something simply profound and funny. And a lot of funny and random things happen, things that will hold a lot of appeal to a middle-grade audience. Super-charged, life-threatening vacuums, giant donuts with sprinkles, and an arch-nemesis that kidnaps. Also important to note, the illustrations by K.G. Campbell give the story more of the grand tone that you find in superhero comics, while still relating perfectly to the everyday occurrences of childhood. Text-graphic mixes like this are fabulous for the struggling reader crowd. This one is mighty delightful--I bought it in hardcover to keep & read to kiddies.

Review by JR. 

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