Review of Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell

Good Reads tells us:

It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry—and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart. From #1 New York Times best-selling author Kate DiCamillo comes a laugh-out-loud story filled with eccentric, endearing characters and featuring an exciting new format—a novel interspersed with comic-style graphic sequences and full-page illustrations, all rendered in black-and-white by up-and-coming artist K. G. Campbell

So what did I think?

Holy bagumba! This book is full of ‘Holy unanticipated occurrences!’ It’s actually pretty tricky to explain, so perhaps all I need to say is go and read it…

Nah…I’ll try to give you a flavour.

First off, the book is illustrated throughout by a decent proportion of K.G. Campbell’s very satisfying illustrations (sadly too, rare in Middle Grade books) which perfectly match the quirky story, characters and DiCamillo’s style.

Secondly, the main thing you need to know is that this book is very, very funny. It is peppered with laugh out loud situations and funny dialogue. In short it’s a proper hoot.

And thirdly it’s gloriously original. I think it’s safe to say there’s no other book out there that starts off with a husband’s vacuum cleaner gift to his wife being responsible for a chain of events that involve a typewriting squirrel, a shepherdess lamp called Mary Ann and poetry.

I love DiCamillo’s witty,clever prose, especially her choice of strategically placed “big” words, which I know kids love, such as malfeasance, obfuscate and surreptitious for example. The characters are all memorable and unlike any you’ve come across before. Flora, a ‘natural-born cynic’, loves reading comics as it provides her with a much needed escape from her mother’s romance writing. In particular she enjoys TERRIBLE THINGS CAN HAPPEN TO YOU! As a cynic she likes to be prepared for unanticipated occurrences. The surprise entrance of Ulysses the squirrel heralds a new chapter in her bumpy relationship with her mother, and comedy capers soon abound. Of course, there are poignant scenes too, and I particularly enjoyed the bits of subtle philosophy that lead to genuine light bulb moments about the human condition.

This is such a quirky, fun read I’d recommend it to anyone needing a bit of a pick-me-up. Enjoy it!

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