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Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated by K. DiCamillo

DiCamillo, Kate. Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated. Illus. K. G. Campbell. Somerville: Candlewick Press, 2013. Print.

The Tickhams have acquired a new, vigorous vacuum cleaner. It is far beyond Mrs. Tickham’s Control. Next door, Flora is reading about The Amazing Incandesto while skilfully ignoring her mother who, in any case, is up to her eyes writing romance novels. A powerful noise outside attracts Flora’s attention: Mrs. Tickham’s new cleaner is making directly for an innocent little squirrel. Flora is just in time to see the squirrel vacuumed up before it can react.

Running gallantly to the squirrel’s relief Flora succeeds in saving the poor thin creature (well, half of its fur has been vacuumed away). Without hesitation she administers CPR and revives a remarkable creature: part squirrel (he is always hungry) and part Super Squirrel. The potentially fatal accident has left a squirrel gifted with: strength, the ability to fly, and a gift for poetry (if not spelling). Flora now has a friend, a companion, and a little trouble ahead.

Relying on her favourite books “Terrible Things Can Happen to You” and “The Criminal Element”, Flora becomes involved with Ulysses the squirrel in a series of adventures that heal hearts, mend wounds, and expose truths. There are possibilities for trust, for friendship and for love - prompted by the affection of a unique squirrel plus Flora’s intelligence, perception and good heart. Many things are healed by them both, reconciliations are achieved and misunderstandings cleared.

The squirrel sums up some of it in his poem to Flora:

would be
easier without
because you are
all of it-
sprinkles, quarks, giant
donuts, eggs sunny-side up-
are the ever-expanding
to me

Flora and Ulysses is a funny, sensitive, perceptive and thoroughly enjoyable book housing two unique heroes. It is one of Kate DiCamillo’s finest.

Flora and Ulyssesis this year’s winner of the Newbery Medal.

Highly Recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Andrea Deakin

Andrea has been involved with books since she was class librarian in Primary School, Student Librarian in Grammar School, student librarian for the Education Faculty when she was a student, and school librarian in schools both in England and in Canada, except for the first two years in Canada where she arrived in 1959. When she retired from teaching ( English and History) she was invited to review in February 1971, and continued to review for press, radio, and finally on the Internet (Deakin Newsletter from Okanagan College) until she retired in 2011. Forty years seemed sufficient- although she still cannot keep her nose out of good children's and YA fare.