Thursday, February 27, 2014

Middle-Grade Review: Flora & Ulysses

I recently listened to Kate DiCamillo’s latest middle-grade novel, Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures on audio. Like DiCamillo’s other well-known middle-grade novels, this one was warm and original, with a great sense of humor, and I enjoyed listening to it.

Ten-year old Flora is a self-described cynic who loves comic books and superheroes. Her summer begins with a bang when a squirrel in her yard gets sucked up into her family’s new super-powered vacuum cleaner (the Ulysses 2000X). Like so many other mild-mannered citizens in the comic books that Flora reads, that trauma results in the squirrel developing super-powers: he can talk, he has super-strength, and he can write poetry. Flora names him Ulysses, and their adventures begin!

Flora’s parents are divorced, her mother seems interested only in writing romance novels (which Flora hates!), and her neighbor’s great-nephew, William, seems intent on hanging around with Flora all summer. In the midst of all of this, Flora is trying to protect her new superhero friend, whom her mother seems bent on destroying. All of this is great fodder for a young girl with an avid imagination, a love of comic books, and a rodent friend with superpowers!

Flora and Ulysses have all kinds of adventures together and close calls, in the spirit of superhero comic books, and maybe learn some life lessons along the way. I listened to this unique and humorous novel on audio, which I now see was a mistake. I had no idea as I listened, but it turns out that this fun novel is actually written partly in text and partly comic-book style. I took a look on amazon (click on the amazon link below and click on the “Look Inside” pic of the cover) and loved the graphic novel style and fun illustrations that really add to the overall attraction of this novel.  While the audio was enjoyable, I can see now that I missed out on a lot without the visuals, so this is one book that is better in paper format.

Overall, Flora & Ulysses is a fun romp, filled with DiCamillo’s trademark warmth and tenderness, as well as a great sense of humor.

Although my sons have outgrown most DiCamillo novels by now (they are 16 and 19), we all have very fond memories of listening to The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (still one of the most amazing middle-grade novels I have ever read) on audio in the car and reading The Tiger Rising together out loud.

Listening Library

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

1 comment:

Margot said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog today. It's so nice to "meet" another adult who loves children's books. This was such a unique book that I understand why it won the Newberry award. It definitely made me feel like a ten-year-old. You did an excellent job reviewing the book.