Sunday, March 30, 2014

Flora & Ulysses - Kate DiCamillo

Title: Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 233 pages
Genre: Children's Realistic Fiction, Fantasy
Started: March 26, 2014
Finished: March 30, 2014

From the inside cover:

She is a natural-born cynic!

He is an unassuming squirrel!

Together, Flora & Ulysses will conquer villains, defend the defenseless, and protect the weak. Or something.

From Newbery Medal winner Kate DiCamillo and artistic superhero K.G. Campbell comes a laugh-out-loud story of friendship, hope, love, and seal blubber.

I've read several of this author's books in the past and have loved all of them. They're very touching and surprisingly deep for children's books. This new book is a bit of a departure from her usual fare: this one is hilarious and quirky.

Flora is ten and cynical. Her parents are divorced; her mother writes romance novels and her father is an accountant. She loves The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto! comics that her father introduced to her, and encounters her own superhero when she witnesses a rogue vacuum cleaner sucking up a squirrel in her neighbour's backyard. As a result of the squirrel surviving being devoured by the vacuum cleaner, he develops super powers: he has super strength, he can fly, type, and even composes poetry. Flora vows to help protect him from his nemesis and fulfill his true destiny. Hilarity ensues.

The writing here is amazingly advanced for a kid's book but not to the point where it's a turn off to the average child reader. Any book that manages to work in the word "malfeasance" properly is one that gets my instant respect. Flora as a character is quite intelligent and precocious, so the opportunities for higher vocabulary there are plenty.

I can't give away too much for fear of spoiling the fun, but this is truly an excellent middle grade book (it won the 2014 Newbery Medal, so the gods of books agree with me), perfect for readers that love silliness. Plus, Ulysses just steals the book, I love that squirrel.

Quirky, silly, and engaging. Plus, squirrel poetry, you can't beat that.

Thoughts on the cover:
Simple but appropriate, I love how Flora's clutching her comic book.

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