Sunday, August 31, 2014

Flora and Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo

Flora is a natural-born cynic, while Ulysses is a might-be superhero squirrel.  After an unfortunate encounter with a powerful vacuum cleaner, Ulysses emerges as a rodent with a big fluffy tail (and no fur) who can lift heavy items, fly through the air, and write poetry.  And while Flora wants to help him conquer his arch-nemesis (her Mom), Ulysses would really just like to find something to eat (perhaps a giant donut?).

A clever and wacky fantasy that intermixes odd-ball characters, poetry, and comic-book styling (complete with storyboard interludes) together to tell a story about a girl and her amazing squirrel friend.  It's completely chaotic and absurd, but in a way that you can enjoy if you let your grown-up sensibilities go (whether children will even understand it is another matter altogether!).  DiCamillo won me over originally with Because of Winn Dixie, but she has since drifted fairly far into Absurdism and I'm not sure how many readers want to follow her there.  Some reviewers claim that the story has a deep theme (abandonment), but I consider it just so over-the-top that any message is largely lost.  I did enjoy it, but it was a bit of a close call.

Oh, yeah, it won the Newbery too, if that sort of thing matters to you.

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