Saturday, September 5, 2015

Review - Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
by Kate DiCamillo
illustrated by K. G. Campbell
Date: 2013
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Reading level: MG
Book type: illustrated prose novel
Pages: 240
Format: e-book
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.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is the third book by Kate DiCamillo I've read (or listened to), and it's the third one I've enjoyed.  Now I really want to go out and find all of her other books so I can gobble them up!

Please, dear author, I want some more...

This is such a whimsical story.  Of course you have to suspend disbelief a little bit, since it's a book about a squirrel that can fly and use a typewriter to write poetry.  But there is a strong superhero/comic-book flavour to the whole thing, which sort of automatically implies a certain level of fantasy.

All of the characters were well developed and distinct.  From next-door-neighbour Tootie and her squirrel-eating vacuum cleaner to the temporarily blind William Spiver, from the waxing-nostalgic Dr. Meescham to the strange-but-lovable George Buckman, from the chain-smoking Phyllis to the furry ball of fury that is Mr. Klaus, all of the supporting characters put on a good show.  But I really enjoyed the two title characters and their relationship.  It was just so cute.  Flora needs a friend and she finds one in Ulysses; and Ulysses, for his part, loves Flora and everything about her.

The book is pretty fun to read, and the illustrations are adorable.  Some of the illustrations take up a full page, and others are incorporated into comic-book panels.  Most of the book, however, is made up of short prose sections with amusing chapter titles.

What really impressed me, though, was how the story was written.  The author doesn't shy away from using big words or thoughtful concepts.  Even though this is a middle-grade book, it doesn't talk down to kids.  You can tell when an author respects her target audience; that was apparent in this case.

It's all a matter of taste...

I can't think of much to complain about.

Let's get technical...

I read this as an e-book, but I would love to see what it looks like in a physical format.  It was a little fiddly getting Adobe Digital Editions to display everything at a size large enough for reading... while not cropping any of the cute illustrations and comic-book panels.

The verdict...

I'd highly recommend this book to readers (of all ages) who like whimsical stories about friendship and fantasy.  It might also appeal to fans of graphic novels and/or comic books.

Quotable moment:

And then she saw that Mrs. Tickham and the vacuum cleaner were headed directly for a squirrel.

"Hey, now," said Flora.

She banged on the window.

"Watch out!" she shouted. "You're going to vacuum up that squirrel!"

She said the words, and then she had a strange moment of seeing them, hanging there over her head.


There is just no predicting what kind of sentences you might say, thought Flora. For instance, who would ever think you would shout, "You're going to vacuum up that squirrel!"?

It didn't make any difference, though, what words she said. Flora was too far away. The vacuum cleaner was too loud. And also, clearly, it was bent on destruction.

Premise: 4/5
Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 5/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 ladybugs


  1. Hooray, I'm glad you liked this one! I just loved it, too. So charming and unique.

    1. It was very, very cute. I'm surprised I haven't seen more book bloggers read and review it!

  2. I debated on reading this one, I was on a superhero kick this summer) but I was afraid it would be just too strange. I'm glad you liked it though. It's always nice when an author doesn't dumb things down for kids.

    1. It was strange, but in a good way. If you like superhero stories, you might like this one.