Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo is funny, touching, thought-provoking and nutty. It is an amazing combination of things. At first is seems impossible that a vacuum cleaner and a squirrel, a round-headed girl and romance novel writing mother can fit together in one story. Add in temporarily blind great nephew (William Spivers), a shepardess lamp named Mary Jane, typewriters, poetry and comic book phrases and it seems impossible for a story to emerge, but it does.
Holy Bagumba! It does.
In the opening pages of the book, Tootie Tickham is given a Ulysses 2000X multi-terrain vacuum cleaner for her birthday. Flora Belle Buckman, the Tickman’s neighbor, watches as Mrs. Tickman is dragged into the yard by the wildly sucking machine and witnesses the horror of a squirrel being sucked into the vacuum. The squirrel causes the vacuum cleaner to stop and Flora rushes out to see what she can do.
Being an avid reader of The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto, along with her favorite bonus comics “TERRIBLE THINGS CAN HAPPEN TO YOU!”, Flora has a great deal of knowledge and information to bring to this situation. She gently administers CPR to the squirrel .
“The squirrel was a little unsteady on his feet.
His brain felt larger, roomier. It was as if several doors in the dark room of his self (doors he hadn’t even known existed) had suddenly been flung wide.
Everything was shot through with meaning, purpose, light.
However the squirrel was still a squirrel.
And he was very hungry. Very.”
From that moment on you’ll be on Flora and the squirrel’s (named Ulysses after the vacuum that nearly took him out of this world) side, hoping they’ll find a place in the world that is accepting, safe and thoughtful.
You can’t help but love each of the characters for their quirks, their honesty and their willingness to go on in a much less than perfect world. Holy Bagumba!
Those who read for the words – their flow and phrasing can’t help but be thrilled. I enjoyed every page of Flora and Ulysses. What did you think?