Book Reviews

Review — Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell

Book title: Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
Author: Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release date: March 2015
Format: Paperback, 233 pages
Source: Library.



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.

The review:

Kate DiCamillo is one of my absolute favorite authors. Her middle grade novels are wonderful, heartfelt stories about unique kids who find themselves in unique, often animal-related, circumstances. Because of Winn-Dixie: dog. The Tiger Rising: tiger. The Mariculous Journey of Edward Tulane: rabbit. The Tale of Despereaux: mouse. The Magician’s Elephant: elephant. And now, Flora and Ulysses: squirrel.

Of all Kate’s books I’ve read (what I’ve mentioned above), Flora and Ulysses is definitely the funniest and most lighthearted of them all. While there is well-placed humor in Winn-Dixie and Despereaux, Flora and Ulysses had me cackling and hooting throughout its entirety. Maybe it was the little kid in me, but I was dying laughing at many instances. In addition to being hilarious, Flora and Ulysses is also a book about superheroes and villains (literal and figurative types), and is a fraction graphic novel.

Flora is a cynical ten-year-old. She’s obsessed with the educational Terrible Things Can Happen To You! comics. She’s got a wicked vocabulary for one so young. And one day she befriends a superhero squirrel. Said squirrel gets vacuumed up (!) by Mrs. Tickham and emerges as Ulysses, vanquisher of villains and their villainy! So begins some very normal and very abnormal events concerning Flora and Ulysses, as well as Flora’s father and Mrs. Tickham’s temporarily-blind nephew William. The story is about good trumping bad — but mainly about a very hungry, poetry-writing squirrel who can fly and lift vacuums over its head with one paw. Ulysses is no ordinary squirrel, and he’s got a mission to save Flora — and himself! — from evil. The story is set in our world and our day; there’s no magic, just an incredibly remarkable squirrel.

All the characters are quirky and compelling, but Ulysses, for obvious reasons, was the absolute best. He eats cheese puffs, writes poetry on a typewriter, loves donuts, admires Flora’s round head, identifies villains, and triumphs over evil. As much as the book is about Flora and her relationship with her divorced parents and her next-door neighbors, it is also about Ulysses and how utterly awesome he is. Nuff said.

K.G. Campbell drew the marvelous illustrations for this tale. Parts of the story are told in wonderful pencil drawings, quite like a graphic novel or comic book. The illustrations add so much more imagery and depth to the story, and make circumstances funnier, sadder, or scarier depending.

I could gush all day about Kate DiCamillo and her magical, lovely, heartwarming stories, but I’ll spare you. I adored every word of Flora and Ulysses. It’s definitely more suited to kids, but teens and adults are sure to enjoy it, too. It’s not as serious or subtly mature as Because of Winn-Dixie or The Tiger Rising, but it’s absolutely hilarious and still an amazing book. I highly recommend it! ♦

So tell me…

Have you read Flora and Ulysses? If you haven’t, would you be interested to? What’s your favorite Kate DiCamillo book, if you’ve read one? What’s the wackiest, funnies book you can remember reading? Comment below letting me know! And, as always, happy reading!

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