Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Tales

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Tales is the newest book by Kate DiCamillo, an author I admire and respect and who previous works (Tale of Desperaux, Because of Winn Dixie etc.) I have devoured whole in a single setting. I have been waiting for a new book from this author for a long time.   

Flora, a witty, quirky girl is obsessed by comics like, Terrible Things Can Happen To You.  Flora lives alone with her mom who smokes, writes romance novels and transfers all her love and affection on to a lamp shaped like a shepherdess named Marianne.  

The action begins when Flora's neighbor Mrs. Twickham receives the gift of a vacuum cleaner, specifically, a Ulysses 2000, The machine has so much power Mrs. Twickham loses control and accidentally vacuums up a squirrel.  Flora swings into action, reviving the poor guy and a beautiful, sweet friendship is born.  

Ulysses comes away from his near death experience with some super human or super squirrel powers that enable him to type and create some beautiful poetry that expresses his gratitude to Flora for saving him and make up some of the books more tender moments.  

Calamity ensues when Flora's mother plots to kill poor Ulysses; Mrs. Twickham's super annoying and temporarily blind nephew comes to visit; Flora's dad shows up for his regularly scheduled custodial visit and chaos breaks out at the local doughnut shop when Ulysses is discovered in a box at their table, and he's very hungry!

The humor of the story is greatly enhanced by the comic or graphic novel style sequences illustrated by K. G. Campbell.  

I loved the relationship between Flora and her squirrel, it evokes the feelings of love, friendship, loss, and belonging that are usually themes in DiCamillo's work. These are two wonderful characters who in my opinion were shortchanged in the plot department. I kept waiting for something more significant to happen to them.  I wanted to know more about Flora's dad who seemed like a decent guy and I wanted Flora's mother to redeem herself.  

 So while I liked Flora and Ulysses, I  am sorry to say I didn't love it.

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