The Illuminating Adventures of a Cynic and a Superhero

Flora and UlyssesFlora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (©2013) written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by K.G. Campbell is the winner of the 2014 Newbery Medal. The book’s heroine is ten-year-old Flora Belle Buckman. As a self-proclaimed cynic, Flora is surprised at herself when, upon seeing her neighbor accidentally vacuum up a defenseless squirrel, she runs to the rescue. Flora is even more surprised when after reviving the squirrel she witnesses him lifting the vacuum over his head. In Flora’s mind, there can only be one explanation. The squirrel, whom Flora names Ulysses, must be a superhero. This theory becomes increasingly more plausible when Ulysses begins to demonstrate other talents. He can understand human speech, use a typewriter, and even fly! Flora’s friendship with Ulysses leads to a surprising adventure and several unforeseen allies including the vacuum-wielding neighbor and her great-nephew, a lonely doctor, and Flora’s estranged father.

Flora and Ulysses illustration

Flora & Ulysses is absolutely marvelous. The author effortlessly blends humor and adventure into a story that is deep, sensitive, and philosophical. Though the book is fast-paced and easy to read, DiCamillo manages to sneak some stellar vocabulary boosters like malfeasance and unremitting into the narrative. The format is unique; the novel is interspersed with short sequences of comic-style graphics and beautiful full-page illustrations, all done in black and white.

This is a charming and poignant book about the power of friendship and forgiveness. I recommend Flora & Ulysses for ages 9-13.

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  1. Thanks Katie for the recommendation– I saw it with the new books at the school library and for some reason, didn’t pick it up– but now I’m going to head back and track it down! Sounds like it could be a fun read-aloud for my class!

  2. Sounds like lots of fun….even the title suggests good vocabulary extension!

  3. I can’t wait to get ahold of this book! Sounds delightful! Wonderful review, Katie!

  4. This sounds great for my twins (who love vocabulary words like “malfeasance”)! They’re only 6 1/2, but many of the books that we’re reading together are in the 8-12 category. I have to be careful with it, though. While Anne of Green Gables is perfect for them right now, a book like Julie of the Wolves isn’t (which I discussed on my blog yesterday, if you’re interested in the reasons). So, I’ll have to see where Flora & Ulysses falls. It sounds fun and light, which is what I’m looking for.

    PS. For some reason, your blog wasn’t showing up in my WP reader anymore. Weird!

  5. This sounds hilarious! I’m sure my kids would love it when they’re a little bit older; they’re into superheroes at the moment.

  6. We are huge diCamillo fans around here but we haven’t read this one yet. We’ll be on the lookout now! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday!

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