Elementary: Great For All

Flora & Ulysses

Kate DiCamillo
2013

Adventure

Fun!

Teamwork

Animals

A second Newbery Medal winner from Kate DiCamillo? Holy Bagumba!

Flora Belle Buckman is an avid reader of comic books and self-proclaimed, natural-born cynic. A freak accident (while her neighbor is vacuuming her lawn!) transforms a squirrel into a character with creative superpowers, just like Peter Parker being bitten by an irradiated arachnid. Or like Alfred T. Slipper falling into a gigantic vat of cleaning solution. Not familiar with Alfred T. Slipper? Guess you’ll just have to read Flora & Ulysses!

Flora dubs her new squirrel sidekick Ulysses, and her life soon becomes more like a comic book adventure. She relies on tips learned from her favorite comic, The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto!, to help her navigate the world. The wisdom garnered there helps Flora deal with her overbearing romance novelist mother, her next-door-neighbor’s temporarily blind great-nephew (the strange but loyal, William Spiver), her socially awkward father, and a handful of other quirky characters that stumble into her life.

Ulysses’s new vacuum-induced superpower is that he can type, and he uses that ability to write poetry for Flora.

I love your round head,
the brilliant green,
the watching blue,
these letters,
this world, you.
I am very, very hungry.

All readers will delight in pondering the meaning and power of Ulysses’s short mysterious poems.

The discovery of Ulysses’s unique talent sends the squirrel, Flora, and William Spiver on a wild adventure that sometimes concerns the fate of a sentimental lamp named Mary Ann much beloved by Flora’s mother. It also includes an unforgettable scene at a donut shop diner with Ulysses perched in the towering bouffant hairdo of a terrified waitress, contemplating the dining options:

There were giant donuts with sprinkles, giant donuts powdered, iced! Giant donuts filled with things: jelly, cream, chocolate.
He had never had a giant donut.
Actually, he had never had any kind of donut.
They looked delicious. All of them. How was a squirrel to choose?

Kate DiCamillo uses varied writing techniques across her children’s novels. In Flora & Ulysses, she partners with illustrator K. G. Campbell to pepper the text with comic book style illustrated panels, a playful device which will grab the attention of your least experienced listeners and bring them into Flora’s world.

Students and families will love going on this off-beat adventure with Flora as she learns who her allies and nemeses are, and what powers she possesses to control her own life. Students will begin to look at their lives differently as they draw parallels between “the real world” and the fiction they’re reading – just like Flora.

Additional Options

  • Title available in Spanish
  • Includes Financial Literacy resources