It all began with a vacuum cleaner, a Ulysses Super-Suction, Multi-Terrain 2000X to be exact, that raced out of control across the neighbor’s lawn and sucked up an unsuspecting squirrel. Ten-year-old Flora Belle Buckman (super hero comic book aficionado and self-described cynic) who was watching from her bedroom window could only utter “Holy bagumba” before rushing to extract the squirrel and administer CPR. As often happens after traumatic events, the “victim” is changed forever, and sometimes for the better. This is true for the squirrel that emerges from the 2000X with less fur, but newly endowed with the powers of super strength, flight, and……poetry. What ensues is an incredibly funny, over-the-top adventure with a cast of quirky characters whose lives are permanently altered by their contact with the squirrel, dubbed “Ulysses” by Flora in honor of the circumstances of his miraculous transformation.
In Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, Kate DiCamillo uses her well established story telling super powers to bring us this original, funny, and heart-warming adventure. Not just your typical wacky animal story, the comedy in this 2014 Newbery Medal winner is balanced by some serious and thought provoking underlying themes. Flora and her newly arrived neighbor, eleven-year-old William Spivey are both trying to cope with the divorce of their parents. Flora immerses herself in her favorite comic, The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto! and its bonus feature Terrible Things Can Happen to You! She rejects all things sentimental, romantic, or hopeful. William Spivey (not William, not Billy) has been sent away from his mother’s home because he cannot get along with his stepfather. He insists on wearing dark glasses that he explains are the result of trauma-induced temporary blindness.
Comic book style illustrations by K. G. Campbell perfectly complement the action in this magical new novel for middle grade readers.