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Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures Hardcover

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Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures + The Year of Billy Miller + Locomotive (Caldecott Medal Book)
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Best Children's Books
This title has been selected by the Amazon editors as one of the Best Children's Books of 2013 for Ages 9-12.

Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; First Edition edition (September 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076366040X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763660406
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (211 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4-6–Flora, obsessed with superhero comics, immediately recognizes and gives her wholehearted support to a squirrel that, after a near-fatal brush with a vacuum cleaner, develops the ability to fly and type poetry. The 10-year-old hides her new friend from the certain disapproval of her self-absorbed, romance-writer mother, but it is on the woman's typewriter that Ulysses pours out his creations. Like DiCamillo's The Magician's Elephant (Candlewick, 2009), this touching piece of magical realism unfolds with increasing urgency over a mere few days and brings its somewhat caricatured, old-fashioned characters together into what becomes a supportive community for all. Campbell's rounded and gentle soft-penciled illustrations, at times in the form of panel art furthering the action, wonderfully match and add to the sweetness of this oddball story. Rife with marvelously rich vocabulary reminiscent of the early superhero era (e.g., “Holy unanticipated occurrences!”) and amusing glimpses at the world from the point of view of Ulysses the supersquirrel, this book will appeal to a broad audience of sophisticated readers. There are plenty of action sequences, but the novel primarily dwells in the realm of sensitive, hopeful, and quietly philosophical literature.–Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DCα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The story begins with a vacuum cleaner. And a squirrel. Or, to be more precise, a squirrel who gets sucked into a Ulysses Super Suction wielded by Flora’s neighbor, Mrs. Tickham. The rather hairless squirrel that is spit out is not the same one that went in. That squirrel had only one thought: “I’m hungry.” After Flora performs CPR, the rescued squirrel, newly named Ulysses, is still hungry, but now he has many thoughts in his head. Foremost is his consideration of Flora’s suggestion that perhaps he is a superhero like The Amazing Incandesto, whose comic-book adventures Flora read with her father. (Drawing on comic-strip elements, Campbell’s illustrations here work wonderfully well.) Since Flora’s father and mother have split up, Flora has become a confirmed and defiant cynic. Yet it is hard to remain a cynic while one’s heart is opening to a squirrel who can type (“Squirtl. I am . . . born anew”), who can fly, and who adores Flora. Newbery winner DiCamillo is a master storyteller, and not just because she creates characters who dance off the pages and plots, whether epic or small, that never fail to engage and delight readers. Her biggest strength is exposing the truths that open and heal the human heart. She believes in possibilities and forgiveness and teaches her audience that the salt of life can be cut with the right measure of love. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: DiCamillo has a devoted following, plus this book has an extensive marketing campaign. That equals demand. Grades 3-6. --Ilene Cooper

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Customer Reviews

He read the book in one night it was so good.
I love the cover, humor, the tone, illustrations, comic book style, whimsical characters, story, poetry, and interesting words (a few of which I had to look up).
B. Sanford
Kate DiCamillo does it again giving us a fantastic heroine in Flora and unexpected lovable superhero in the squirrel Ulysses.
Alexandra Henshel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By J. Hundley VINE VOICE on August 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
And I don't mean the title as an insult or backhanded compliment.

My daughter and I come to this from the younger audience DiCamillo books - most specifically the wonderful, screwball Mercy Watson books. My daughter is a second-grader for whom this is a tad advanced, mostly in the vocabulary, though I suspect most of the target audience and even a few adults, may have trouble here and there with this. As a result, we used this as a read-aloud, with the graphic chapters shared in a huddle. Our composite review is a big thumbs up.

In Flora, DiCamillo has created a wonderful main character - an extremely intelligent and sensitive 10-year-old girl living in a world in which the adults around her don't seem to have much use for her, so she reasonably views their world with a jaundiced eye. She retreats into "cynicism" and comics until the world rather rudely and amusingly puts her into contact with a most amazing squirrel and some pretty screwball characters who will by turns exasperate, fascinate and enlighten her into some of the ways other people chose, or fall into, to cope with their sometimes hostile and uncaring worlds.

Despite how angsty that last paragraph is, the book is for the most part a hoot - it is just a hoot with a point or two to make. My daughter and I both came to like Flora's dad, understand her mom, adore Ulysses, the superhero squirrel (and despite some of the other reviews you might read - he DOES indeed save a life here), and appreciate William Spiver.

Only complaint - and the reason for the docking of one star (though I wish I could dock only a half-star) - there are places here in which, much like the Mercy Watson books, DiCamillo pushes the quirkiness just a bit too far a bit too often. That said, there is a lot more here to like.
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Donovan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Oh how I love this book. My 9-year-old son got to it before me, and how he loves this book. We've read excerpts aloud to my 15-year-old daughter who has never lost her appreciation for children's books (She must get it from me), and she loves what she's heard, and is going to read it next, now that I'm finished it. You can read the description yourself, but the characters speak to what was lovely about the book:

FLORA -- A precocious (and self-proclaimed cynical) 10-year-old girl.

ULYSSES -- A squirrel who got sucked up by a vacuum cleaner, the survival of which event gave him powers like flying and the ability to understand and communicate

TOOTIE TICKHAM -- The neighbor, probably nosy but definitely supportive of Flora

WILLIAM SPIVEY -- not William, not Billy -- Tootie's 11-year-old nephew who unexpectedly turns up in her (and thus Flora's) life. He is suffering from temporary blindness caused by trauma.

MARY ANN -- A beautiful shepherdess keeping guard over the entry way (she's a lamp)

There are other people who support or confound Flora and Ulysses. The whole story is sort of Flora's quest or ultimate understanding of love and support. I chuckled out loud many times as I read, but I was also moved several times.

Some of the chapters start off with a comic strip panel of Ulysses' adventures, and there are a few other of K.G. Campbell's drawings throughout, which gave the story extra charm.


This may seem like a cute little book with some comics throughout, appropriate for your high-reading 2nd grader. He or she could read it I'm sure, and might like it, but I believe this is a book best enjoyed when that more sophisticated sense of humor and vocabulary kicks in.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Y. Scott VINE VOICE on August 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Flora is a 10 year old girl whose parents were divorced. Her mother is a romance novel author and only cares about her job and an Ugly little shepherdess lamp, Mary Ann. Flora calls herself Cynic, but we know she wants to be loved and cared by her mother.

Then One day, the neighbor's vacuum cleaner sucked a squirrel and somehow the squirrel gained a superpower. Flora named the squirrel Ulysses and they became best friends. However, Flora's mother was determined to exterminate this rodent.

Some parts of the story are told in comic novel style and they are cute. The supporting characters are all eccentric and that would appeal to young children.

It's a fun book to read and the ending is heartwarming.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Karen Wilber VINE VOICE on October 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I love Kate DiCamillo's quirky characters and intelligent writing and I was prepared to love this book too, but I didn't.

I thought the concept of combining text and graphic novel style illustrations worked well in this story of an unlikely superhero and I even wished they had included a few more panels. Flora's reliance on pulp fiction advice from "Terrible Things Can Happen to You" and "The Criminal Element" made me laugh. I found myself wanting more poetry and chapters about the hero, Ulysses.

DiCamillo has a talent for developing eccentric characters but a couple of them just became annoying. William Spiver is temporarily blind (maybe) and talks in a way that makes him sound more Mr. Spock than precocious child. Even the other characters seemed to tire of him. I cheered when I came to the chapter "Will you please, please shut up, William Spiver?"

Dr. Meescham is downright creepy, with a backstory-supplying riff that was a little too much Heinz Doofenshmirtz. (Ask your kids.)

Overall I enjoyed the story and the humor. I liked Flora, adored Ulysses and learned a few new vocabulary words (keep a dictionary handy). I wonder why there wasn't more interaction between Flora and her father. What on earth was Dr. Meescham even doing in this story? It's not great, definitely not DiCamillo's best. The 3-star rating summed it up for me: "It's OK".
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