Saturday, February 10, 2018

Flora and Ulysses {superhero squirrel}

At the beginning of a couple of weeks of glorious Olympic sporting celebrations, you just might be in the mood for a midwinter break. A midwinter break that has you curled up on Saturday mornings and midweek evenings watching sports you've never heard of before (especially if you don't watch sports.) Maybe you throw a random pan of brownies in the oven. Maybe you stand and salute the national anthem with your team.

And maybe, if you're watching a sport that just isn't catching your interest, you'll want to pick up a completely new book to pass the time: Flora and Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo

cover via Goodreads 
About the Book
When an ordinary squirrel gets sucked up into a vacuum, he emerges with superpowers--the ability to fly, and the ability to write poetry. Teaming up with Flora, comic book expert, cynic, and daughter of divorced parents, Ulysses starts his quest. But will he be killed or separated from Flora by their Archenemy just as their adventures are beginning? 

My Thoughts 
We were sitting by a woodstove in rocking chairs, soaking in a conversation about books and blogging, when a friend brought over a copy of Flora and Ulysses to show me. It's a fascinating book format--a children's chapter book written mostly in text and partly in comic book style, flipping between the two formats to tell the story. At the end of the night, her sister lent me a copy to take home. Superhero squirrel? This sounded enchanting.

The next day I curled up in bed and read like crazy, starting the morning with some Wodehouse and easing into Flora and Ulysses later on. But, while I can handle drama and kidnappings, murder and abduction, Dickens and dystopian, my brain doesn't always work with whimsy as fast as it should. Somehow it finds big, obvious, gut-wrenching emotions easier to categorize than the life and perspective of a child. Flora was hard to open my heart to at first. She didn't like her mother or adults, and while I can handle those emotions in adult books, when I read a children's book my flag immediately goes up. When I was a child, I was careful to recognize bad attitudes in books. This is Not How Good Children Behave. Which, I hasten to add, is true.

But Flora was a little more complex than that. I'm not sure which chapter it was, but when I picked up the book a second time, some days later, my brain finally clicked. Flora is hurting so badly because of her parents' divorce, and she hasn't talked about it, so all these toxic feelings and distrust of adults is trapped inside. Once I made my own self-discovery (not having read the back of the book, which would have explained it) I felt like such a bright little genius.

*pats smol schuyler*

After that, I found so much to love. A child's wounded heart finds comfort through comic books, all kinds of facts about what to do in crisis situations, and a little squirrel. She also finds companions in the neighbor lady, Mrs. T, and her nephew (ahem, great-nephew) William Spiver, who is carrying wounds of his own. (Also the apartment lady, who I felt creeped out by.)

And the squirrel. The squirrel is priceless. He's small. Loyal. Loving. Simple-minded. There's nothing much going on up there besides: Poetry. Food. Love for Flora. Do Great Things. Combine that with an inability to spell (Oh, glorious 'Squirtle'!) and you have the recipe for a furry companion that simply melts the heart. It's easy to get lost in the journey of Flora and Ulysses' fight against separation, Flora's unfolding friendships, and the mystery of why in the world William Spiver won't take his glasses off.

If you're in the mood for a Newbery Medal winner that throws in some tasty-sounding donuts for good measure, the tender adventure of Flora and Ulysses navigating their world of flaws and hurts might be just the thing to curl up with. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh my word this looks like the cutest thing ever. I'm adding it to my tbr.


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