Flora rescued a squirrel who was sucked up into her neighbors’ new vacuum cleaner. The squirrel came back from the grave with surprising new powers, including super strength, an increased mental capacity, and a talent for poetry. Flora named him Ulysses. With the help of the hypochondriac boy next door, Flora protected Ulysses from real and imagined dangers, including a diner, a cat, and her mother, who plotted to hit the squirrel in the head with a shovel and bury him in a sack. When Flora’s mother kidnapped Ulysses, determined to get rid of him for good, Flora and her neighbors go on a nighttime quest to rescue him. Ulysses escapes from Flora’s mother, who returns home to find Flora missing. Her panic and relief when she finds Flora heals their relationship, and Ulysses goes on to write more poetry.
Flora is proud of her reputation as a “natural born cynic,” but her cynicism is a self-protective mechanism, the result of her parents’ less-than-amicable divorce. She’s intelligent, eloquent, imaginative, and empathetic. Her development as a character center around her relationship with her mother and the crumbling of her cynicism. The theme of the book is revealed in Flora’s surrender to hope; caring about the people around her is worth the danger of being hurt.
Ulysses is a complex character in his own right. His squirrel-thinking develops over the course of the story, and the joy that he takes in life is one of the most uplifting aspects of the book.
The story takes place in the contemporary United States. Settings are not described thoroughly, but key details made the locations memorable. Ulysses is the only fantastical element. The plot is internally consistent and mixes the usual superhero-discovering-his-powers story with a quest.
The audiobook reader does the varying character voices well, without being annoying. Her portrayal of the brilliantly-written Flora makes the girl even more memorable. The weird musical interludes are pointless interruptions.
Winner of the 2014 Newbery Medal
National Book Award Longlist
“There’s real emotion at the heart of this story.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Original, touching, and oh-so-funny.” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review
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Create your own comic book superhero. What powers would she or he possess? How did she or he become a superhero?
DiCamillo, Kate. Read by Tara Sands. 2013. FLORA & ULYSSES: THE ILLUMINATED ADVENTURES. New York: Listening Library. ISBN 9780449015131
FLORA AND ULYSSES Resources. Accessed October 24, 2015. http://floraandulysses.com/home.html
McGee Matt. “The Friendly Squirrel.” From Flickr. Creative Commons. https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleeker/2446798153