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.”~Goodreads
Published: September 24th 2013 by Candlewick Press *Newberry Medal Winner 2014*
Length: 233 pages
Audience: Children ages 8+, grades 3rd+, parents, teachers, fans of Kate DiCamillo
Genre: Fantasy, Humor, Children’s Lit , Family, Animals, Adventure
9 year-old 3rd grader review:
“It was fun to read about Ulysses becoming a superhero. When he got sucked up in the vacuum, I felt bad that he was missing fur. I liked when Flora saw Ulysses typing on the Mom’s typewriter. The pictures were very unique with the comics and regular illustrations. My favorite character was Ulysses because he was very determined and a good buddy to Flora. William Spiver was a little bit weird but he always had Flora’s back and wanted to help her. Some new words I learned were: cynic, tentative, astonished and distinguishes.”
11 year-old 6th grader review:
“I enjoyed The Tale of Despereaux and Because of Winn Dixie so I thought I would like Flora and Ulysses. This was really full of details and challenging vocabulary. I loved how each of the characters showed a sense of humor. It was different from other books because it combined a comic strip with a regular story. My favorite character was Flora because she always showed determination and cared about animals like Ulysses. Also in the end Ulysses ended up bringing the family back together to make Flora happy. Some new words I learned were: cynic, foreboding, vigorously and sepulchral.”
What a fantastic story for a children’s book club. The mixture of illustrations really set the story apart from other chapter books. Kate DiCamillo understands her audience combining heartfelt family issues with the love and companionship of animals. Have a dictionary/thesaurus ready for there were many challenging words that even had me stumped. We played a game trying to decode the unknown words with context clues, but to be honest, some were difficult. Being a small book club (three people) it was easy to pass the book around to share illustrations and take turns reading. For a classroom setting, I would encourage multiple copies or use technology like an ELMO or overhead to engage larger audiences. Regardless, I would visit the above study/discussion links for further activities which are very useful. There is no doubt why Flora & Ulysses won the 2014 Newberry Medal.