Monday, July 13, 2015
2015 - Flora & Ulysses, The Illuminated Adventures
Enough for now with the dusty Newbery Winners of our parents (and grandparents!). I have actually just read a brand-new, this very year 2015 Newbery Award Winning Book, Flora & Ulysses, by previous medal-winning author Kate DiCamillo (Tale of Despereaux).
A comic-book air of fun and surrealism suffuses this book, making it immediately engaging, yet it never takes over or minimizes the story. Some of the action that is presented through images and comic-strip match with the fantastical air of what is happening in the tale.
Ten year-old Flora, though a "natural-born cynic," is none-the-less quite influenced by the comic books introduced to her by her father. They feature Alfred T. Slipper, the unassuming janitor who becomes "Incandesto," the superhero who fights evil and other malfeasance. She has also learned a lot from bonus parts of the comic books, such as "Terrible Things Can Happen to You!" Which comes in really handy when she needs to give CPR to a squirrel who has been vacuumed up by a Ulysses 2000X Vacuum Cleaner in the neighbor's yard. Though the squirrel has lost a lot of fur going through the brushes, he has gained a rational, thinking brain. Luckily he can also type, so the astonished rescuers can understand what is going though his mind.
But like most good literature, the story isn't all in the plot action, but just provides a fun and exciting background to reveal more about the characters.
While I find Flora fun and worthy, the character I like the best is the boy William, who is staying with his aunt (the one who accidentally vacuumed up the squirrel). William wears dark glasses and announces that he is temporarily blind induced by trauma. You sense there is something interesting going on with his story from clues dropped here and there. He's a bit insufferable, in a fun way, and I liked him.
Flora's biggest challenge is deciding to be loyal to Ulysses, the squirrel, in spite of the acute conflicts that arise, specifically her mother wanting to kill that "rabid, diseased thing."
I enjoyed reading the book, and I expect that most junior readers would find it fun and interesting too, and also appreciate the conflicts that arise around Flora.
I checked this book out of the library. It was a donated gift to the Shasta County Library.