Sunday, November 17, 2013

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

Kate DiCamillo's children's stories keep getting funnier and more adorable. Holy bagumba! Flora and Ulysses had me laughing out loud. Flora is ten years old and a natural-born cynic. Ulysses is a squirrel who attains superpowers after a near-death encounter with a vacuum cleaner.

The vocabulary is rich with words like malfeasance, planetary dislocations, and existential terror. There are "astonishing acts of heroism" and a great many "unanticipated occurrences." I also loved the way that poetry is treated with due respect.

After vanquishing a vicious cat, Ulysses "was enormously, inordinately pleased with himself. He felt immensely powerful! He felt like writing a poem!"*

The waitress at the Giant Do-Nut had her name tag spelled out in all capital letters: RITA! "Flora narrowed her eyes. The exclamation point made Rita seem untrustworthy, or, at the very least, insincere."**

Flora and Ulysses is a rollicking and witty adventure that would make a fantastic family read-aloud, suitable for all ages.

Readalikes: Mr and Mrs Bunny, Detectives Extraordinaire! (Polly Horvath); The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas (David Almond); The True Meaning of Smekday (Adam Rex)

*Coincidentally, in Thea Bowering's short story 'The Cannibals' (in Love at Last Sight), a modern-day little mermaid out for revenge is similarly inspired: "She had been trained to attack: when you find your mortal enemy, don't hesitate, close in quickly and write a poem."

**In yet another coincidence, this time in Worst. Person. Ever., Raymond has frustrating encounters with a airline lounge waitress wearing a name tag that says LACEY, and each time LACEY is mentioned in the text, her name is always presented like that: in all-caps and in a contrasting bold font.

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