Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell
Winner of the 2014 John Newbery Medal; A 2014 Junior Library Guild Selection
Candlewick Press, 2013. 978-0763660406
Synopsis: When Flora Belle Buckman observes a squirrel meet an unfortunate fate at the hands of her neighbor’s out of control vacuum, she steps in to save the day. But when this cynic realizes that she has witnessed the birth of a superhero, both girl and squirrel find themselves with a new bond that will change them in unanticipated ways. Seal blubber!
Why I picked it up: My grandmother passed recently, and I remember DiCamillo talking in her acceptance speech about her mother being worried about what would happen to her vacuum when she died.
Why I finished it: This book had been sitting on my shelf for a while, and in light of what has been going on in my life recently, it’s provided a sort of comfort for me. Flora has been told that she is a cynic by her romance novel-writing mother, and she does view the world with some cynicism, but I don’t think Flora is as cynical as she believes herself to be. She proves to be a hero in her own right when she revives Ulysses after his encounter with Mrs. Tickham’s birthday present. She continues to nurture and encourage him, reminding him when he s unsure what to do: “You are Ulysses”. And when she must leave the house in the middle of the night to find her squirrel who has been kidnapped by her mother, she understands the power of friendship and family. Campbell’s illustrations bring this story to life in a format that blends comics with the traditional novel format. The hybrid format is engaging for the reader, bringing the characters and the story to life, and it ties in with Flora’s favorite comic that plays a key role throughout the plot: The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incadesto! Yes, it is about a superhero and a cynic, but it is also about love and relationships and poetry and food. It’s about the unknown connections we make with each other and the people around us. It’s a beautifully written story that will connect to readers of all ages.
Other related materials: The Tale of Desperaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering; Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate Dicamillo; The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo; The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Yoko Tanaka; The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline; The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao; The Crossover by Kwame Alexander; Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor; One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia; Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Donna Diamond; El Deafo by Cece Bell; Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin