Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
Ages: 9-12 years (approximately grades 3-6)
A fitting companion to last Friday’s picture book pick, Sophie’s Squash, this week’s 2014 Newbery Medal winner, Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, deals with a girl finding friendship in the most unlikely of places. Young, eccentric Flora Belle lives with her mother, a writer who seems to love a gaudy shepherdess lamp more than she loves her own daughter. While escaping the ever-present clack-clack-clack of her mother’s typewriter, Flora witnesses an astonishing event happen in the yard over when she looks up from her Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto! comic book. When her neighbor (Tootie Tickman) takes her birthday present, the Ulysses 2000x vacuum cleaner, out for a test run, she accidentally sucks up a squirrel- holy bagumba! Using the emergency tactics she has learned from her favorite bonus comics, Terrible Things Can Happen To You!, Flora rushes to the squirrel's rescue and, upon his resuscitation, finds out that his trip through the vacuum has bestowed super powers upon him that include writing poetry, super strength, and flight. Flora helps the super squirrel (who she dubs Ulysses after the instrument of his almost-undoing) evade the murderous plot of his arch nemesis, her own mother. With the help of her father, who she sees over the weekends, and the most unique host of characters you’ll find this side of Oz, Flora finds out the true meaning of friendship, where her mother's love truly lies, and that being yourself is perhaps the greatest super power of all.
Highly decorated children’s author Kate DiCamillo (author of the favorite Bink & Gollie series among many other award-winning titles) has done it again with Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. What sets this story apart from this year's other Newbery honorees, and even from DiCamillo’s other works, is its part-written, part-illustrated take on this dynamic duo’s tale. The illustrations are reminiscent of a super hero comic (perhaps even Flora’s own Incandesto!) and helps the already quick and easy read move steadily along. The humorous depictions of the characters and events in the story brings everything to life in a way that only illustrations could with a story already as strong as this one is. DiCamillo's creative use of font, FACE, and s p a c i n g throughout the adventure is the cherry on this delectable treat of a novel, and is something members of the digital age will very much connect with. Perfect for both reluctant readers and those who read everything they can get their hands on, Flora & Ulysses joins my personal favorites for the middle grade crowd; ages 9-12 years or roughly third to sixth grades.
Find Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures in our catalog.