Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
By Kate DiCamillo
My Rating: Four out of Five Stars
Best for: 10 and up
The littles and I just finished the 2014 Newbery Medal winner: Flora & Ulysses! I love everything from Kate DiCamillo, so expectations were pretty high.
We loved it! (Mostly…)
Here are five reasons we loved Flora & Ulysses:
1) This book made us laugh out loud!
2) It introduced awesome new words through clever repetition, and now I’ve got an 8 year old saying malfeasance, a 4 year old calling herself a cynic, and an 11 year old who now knows what capacious means.
3) The merging of graphic novel with traditional was a fun way to read together as everyone took turns studying the frames and digesting the story.
4) These characters! No one is normal, everyone has lessons to learn, and each is unique in the most wonderful, quirkiest way.
5) It’s the origin story of A SUPERHERO SQUIRREL. 100% kid approved!
Here’s the (mostly…):
1) There’s a little too much dysfunctional-family reality. Divorced parents who talk bad about each other, a verbally abusive step-dad, and emotionally compromised 11-year-olds feel more like a Dr. Phil episode than a children’s story.
2) The parents are dopes and the kids can’t trust them. Flora’s mom is labeled Ulysses’s arch nemesis, and at one point she kidnaps him, stuff’s him in a bag, and tries to kill him with a shovel. William Spiver’s mom and step-dad don’t understand him and “banish” him from their home to live at his great aunt’s house. All he wants is to be invited back home–but the invite never comes.
3) Flora’s mom smokes, which isn’t a huge deal but does feel a bit tone deaf for a modern children’s story.
All ends well for Flora and her parents, and I suppose there is value for kids in gaining perspective into families that are different from their own. Plus, for some kids the circumstances in Flora & Ulysses will describe their own life and they’ll find value in being understood. This dad felt it was a bit heavy handed, and I’m glad we read this one together instead of them reading it on their own.
I asked the kids how many stars we should give it. They said five. I’m going say four…and since this is my review, I win!
Best for 10 and up.