Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

by Kate DiCamillo

Hardcover, 2013



Local notes

Fic DiC



Candlewick (2013), Hardcover, 240 pages


Rescuing a squirrel after an accident involving a vacuum cleaner, comic-reading cynic Flora Belle Buckman is astonished when the squirrel, Ulysses, demonstrates astonishing powers of strength and flight after being revived.

Original publication date


Physical description

240 p.; 6.25 inches


076366040X / 9780763660406



User reviews

LibraryThing member rdg301library
A silly story and the grating voice of the narrator make this one audiobook I couldn't finish. Hard to believe this book won the 2014 Newbery Medal.
LibraryThing member andreaf17
This is another win from Kate DiCamillo! Ulysses - a suddenly superhero squirrel and Flora, a self-proclaimed cynic become great friends after an unfortunate incident with a vacuum cleaner. The book deals with difficult family topics all-the-while creating an amusing story about a girl and her pet. Comic book-style illustrations are strewn throughout and help tell portions of the story.

I would recommend this to kids in grades 3 and up.
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LibraryThing member MaowangVater
Flora Belle Buckman’s mother has often accused her of being a “natural-born cynic.” Flora’s motto is, “Do not hope; instead observe.” But when she observes a squirrel that’s been almost vacuumed to death by a Ulysses Super-Suction, Multi-Terrain 2000X vacuum cleaner, stand up and lift the huge machine above his head, she knows she’s witnessed the birth of a superhero! Holy Unanticipated Occurrences! Naming him Ulysses, she becomes his devoted side-kick, as he fights malfeasance, types poetry, and flies through donut shops and the moonlit night. Holy bagumba! It’s the tale of a squirrel superhero’s origin and first adventure.

Campbell’s gray pencil full page illustrations and comic strip panels are a perfect complement to and continuance of Di Camillo’s slyly silly prose and sweetly poetic story.
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LibraryThing member foggidawn
Flora Belle Buckman is a cynic -- but even she is amazed when she sees a squirrel get sucked into a vacuum cleaner, and emerge triumphant. The ability to escape almost certain death by vacuum proves to be only one of Ulysses the Squirrel's extraordinary abilities. Of course, he has enemies, too . . .

To tell the truth, the plot of this story is not what sticks with me after reading -- it's the quirkiness that makes an impression. Amid the wacky squirrel-related adventures, there are some deeper musings on philosophical questions of life and love, elevating this above the level of "just another crazy superhero book." I liked it well enough, but did not love it.… (more)
LibraryThing member wyvernfriend
I found this story of a squirrel sucked into a vacuum cleaner who comes out the other end a bit balder, and with some superhero powers, like being able to understand humans and to write poetry, and fly. And that all sounds so silly when you spell it out but really it's charming and cute and has some comic strips to break up the narrative and I found it heartwarming and funny.

It will be going on lists of bests for me for this year's reads. I really did like it. There were some moments where it juddered a bit, hence the 4 not 5 stars but overall it was very good and made me very happy to have read it.
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LibraryThing member knitwit2
The wonderful Kate DiCamillo has done it again! She has created extraordinary characters for us to fall head over heels in love with. A delightful read aloud for kids of all ages.
LibraryThing member bookappeal
Cute, funny story with a nice message. Flora copes with her parents' failed marriage by reading comics and imagining her life as a superhero. When a freak accident gives a backyard squirrel unusual powers, Flora recognizes the transformation, names him Ulysses, and dedicates herself as his loyal sidekick, patiently waiting for someone to save. Flora's motto of "do not hope, observe" is challenged when Ulysses brings new people into her life and shows her the capaciousness of the human (and squirrel) heart. Narrated enthusiastically by Tara Sands on the audiobook, Flora's anxiety can occasionally become grating but that's a slight ding in an otherwise flawless performance of this uplifting story. DiCamillo doesn't skimp on challenging vocabulary, either, using wonderful words repeatedly and in good context for comprehension by younger readers.… (more)
LibraryThing member melissarochelle
Read from December 17 to 21, 2013

Isn't it funny when you start a book because you think you'll read it quickly and then it still takes you a few days? That happened with me and this book. I thought I would read it in a night, but nope!

It's a cute story about a girl named Flora who sees a befriends a squirrel that has just developed superhero qualities. She then has to fight to keep him because her mother doesn't like Ulysses and just wants Flora to be a normal girl -- not a girl that has a pet squirrel that types and flies.

Reading Progress

12/17/2013 page 10 4.0% "I don't remember reading words like cogitation or malfeasance in the Babysitter's Little Sister series I read as a kid."
12/23/2013 read 100%
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LibraryThing member ebnelson
What's great about this book is the pure joy that the author clearly had while writing. Although the story is probably a little advanced for those below middle school--my sixth grader loved it so much he bought copies for several of his friends for Christmas. And what isn't there to love? A poetry-loving super squirrel and his sidekick 11-year-old cynic? Seriously, the book's quirky humor and style isn't for everyone (see negative reviews), but those it works for will be treated with a book that plays of common tropes with an interesting exploration of the power of hope (well-packaged for juvenile fiction).… (more)
LibraryThing member 4sarad
Cute book, but so weird! I really need to find an actual young person who has read it and get their opinions. So often I read middle school books and like them but feel as though someone in their actual intended age range would think they were weird or boring. Not much happens in this book and it seems to end in the middle of nowhere with much left unsaid. The main character is a very strange girl who has strange parents, strange neighbors, and now a strange superhero squirrel as well. This book would definitely help expand a young person's vocabulary if they can stick with it and not get frustrated with all the unusual new words. Cute... funny... definitely unique... just not sure my typical 5th or 6th grade reader will get into it!… (more)
LibraryThing member TheLostEntwife
One of the things I love most about reading middle grade books is how a really complex message is written to convey something very deep and meaningful. Kate DiCamillo is one of the authors that does this extremely well - which is one of the reasons for her popularity, I am sure. Still, when I saw what Flora and Ulysses was about, I was a bit hesitant. I mean.. a squirrel? as a main character? Really? But it worked. Let me tell you why.

Read the rest of this review at The Lost Entwife on Jan. 17, 2014.
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LibraryThing member dmiller70
This is a very different book for Kate DiCamillo. It is a great adventure story, told at times in a graphic novel format.
LibraryThing member brangwinn
Ms. DiCamillo deserves the Newbery Award for this book. She's created a very imaginative story about a lonely girl, a lonely boy and a squirrel who was sucked up by the Ulysses Vacuum Cleaner and becomes a SUPERHERO! Flora's mom, a romance author is not at all pleased that Flora has brought home a squirrel who can write poetry, Her parents have been divorced and Flora finds much more support from her meek and mild father--probably because Ulysses has rescued him from a nasty cat. Add an ugly china shepherdess lamp much loved by her mother and you've got unusual book, filled with unusual words and a funny plot.… (more)
LibraryThing member LouisVillains
Written through the points of view of Flora (a self-proclaimed cynic after her parents' divorce) and Ulysses (a "born anew" squirrel) this book is incredibly touching. It incorporates action, suspense, and even a few tears. It's no surprise that DiCamillo added another award to her resume with this wonderful book.
LibraryThing member Whisper1
Take a perpetually hungry squirrel stunned, shaved bald in spots, near death as he is sucked up into the Ullysses super vacuum cleaner, add lonely self confirmed cynic, comic-book addict Flora Buckman, stir in a nerdy "almost blind" word smith lonely young boy who insists his name always is spoken with first (William) and second (Spiver), pepper it with a self absorbed romance writing fool of a mother, a loving, shy father and you have the perfect characters for a 2014 Newbery medal award winning book!

When a neighbor lady is given a gift of the super Ullysses model of cleaner and it runs wild in the outdoors, rapidly swallowing everything in its path, a squirrel who has had his share of knocks in life sees the light of near death when he happens to be one of the objects in the path. As Flora watches from her window, she knows she must help.

Whalla! Rescued by Flora, the squirrel, now named Ullysses, falls in love and simultaneously becomes a flying super hero, able to type and compose poetry, able to take the heart of cynical Flora and melt it like the jelly stuck to his whiskers from consuming too many donuts.

This book has a smattering of everything-- comedy, a wild and quirky loving animal, wonderful graphic images, the emotions of two young children who escape from adults too dense to understand, and a fast moving plot that leaves the reader in awe of the author's talents!

As Flora Buckman and William Spiver attempt to rescue Ullysses once again, this time from the arch arch nemesis Flora's jealous mother, the adventure takes them to a place, they never dreamed -- that of hope and understanding.

When I finished, I immediately wanted to start right back again.

Five BIG Stars!
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LibraryThing member sylliu
My nine and a half year old loved the story and reviewed it for her school. So here is her review:

What would you do if you encountered a squirrel that was sucked up by your neighbor’s vacuum cleaner, and that came out with super powers? In Flora and Ulysses, by Kate Dicamillo, Flora, a ten year old girl, rescues the squirrel and names him Ulysses. She soon finds out that Ulysses can fly, type poetry, understand humans, and is super strong.

With the help of Ulysses, Flora has to deal with divorced parents and a mother who would rather have a shepherdess lamp named Mary Ann than her. When Flora finds out her mother’s evil plot to get rid of Ulysses, they have to turn to her neighbor, Tootie Tickham, Tootie’s nephew William Spivey, who is temporarily blind from trauma, and her dad, who eventually regains his confidence and happiness over their adventures.

Flora and Ulysses is a funny and exciting book. This wonderful novel is also the 2014 Newberry Award winner. Throughout the story, Flora learns what love and friendship is. I liked how the most exciting parts of the story are told in comics. My favorite part is when Ulysses flew down the hallway to save Flora’s mother from an attacking cat. I loved this book, and I hope you will to.
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LibraryThing member dms02
Two thumbs up for a super book! A book with a comic book theme running inside its pages. Superheros and a girl heroine. A book that I think would appeal to both boys and girls. One of those rare species of books that captivates both the child listener and adult reader. Characters that will stick with you for probably just as long as some of the quirky catch phrases. Twists that take the story from where you thought it was going to somewhere even better. Oh, and on top of all that a really great story! This is one that will hit the re-read pile.… (more)
LibraryThing member porch_reader
This is an adorable story about 10-year-old Flora, who is struggling with her parents' divorce. But when a squirrel is vacuumed up by Flora's next door neighbor and develops superpowers (just go with it), Flora teams up with Ulysses in a real-life version of her beloved comic books. There is intrigue and a great supporting cast. The story worked well on audio, although I missed the pictures that are in the book version.… (more)
LibraryThing member MaeJ
This book is about girl named Flora and a squirrel named Ulysses. Flora and Ulysses become friends and superhero partners. Do they save the world like as planned or not? Read to find out! I liked this book because it has adventure every which way. It also contained vivid detail and I liked the characters and setting and everything orbed around that. I suggest this book to everyone who likes adventure and comic books and "powerful" squirrels.… (more)
LibraryThing member librarian1204
Absolutely delightful. Another hit from Kate DiCamillo with perfect illustrations (illuminated) that fit the text. Elementary level for both solo reads and as a read aloud. The use of vocabulary is fun. Ulysses, who is a squirrel, writes his poetry but the work of other poets becomes part of the story as well. If students liked Sharon Creech's Love that Dog, this book would be enjoyable for them as well. Characters that will provoke discussions, humor and dare devil adventures, this story has it all. It would be fun to read a follow up book about Flora and William, their families and of course, Ulysses.
Newbery Award 2014.
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LibraryThing member David-Z
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, K.G. Campbell (Illustrator)

David Ziegler's review
Jan 30, 14

bookshelves: animals, family, humor, newbery-medal, divorce

Read from January 29 to 30, 2014

In Flora and Ulysses The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K. G. Campbell we have the fantastic and humorous story of a squirrel who is partly vacuumed up, dies, and comes back to life after being given CPR by cynical, super-hero-loving ten year old Fiona Belle Buckman, whose parents are divorced. She names the squirrel Ulysses, after the super-suction, multi-terrain vacuum cleaner that nearly killed him. Ulysses becomes super-strong, then eats crackers and pieces of poetry the vacuum had sucked up. Ulysses then seems to understand human speech. He has much squirrel-like behavior, yet he is somehow able to write I etry! Hijinks ensue!

Some very quirky characters populate this story. Fiona's mother Phyllis is the writer of florid romance novels. Her father, George Buckman, is quiet, lonely, and works as an accountant. William Spiver, banished to stay with his great aunt, claims he suffers from temporary blindness induced by trauma. Mr. Klaus is enormous, angry orange cat, who pees on doors, vomits in the stairwells, and attacks people, biting, scratching and growling at them. Dr. Meescham is friendly. helpful Doctor of Philosophy, neighbor of George, who wears large glasses and loves opera.

Flora and Ulysses has just received the 2014 Newbery Medal. While many children seem to enjoy it, some teachers and librarians are less enthusiastic. Some feel that the ten and 11 year old characters are overly precocious, and use overly advanced vocabularies for their ages.
Some feel that the characters are too cartoon like.

I like the book but feel that the illustrations are a major part of its popularity. Only through the pictures do you see that the neighbors are a bi-racial couple, or that Dr. Meescham has such wonderful looks as The Hobbit, The Tempest, Sonnets to Orpheus, Hans Andersen Fairy Tales, or that she has a large and healthy bonsai tree. The characters are drawn in a very cartoony, graphic novel style that should appeal to many children. Without these illustrations, I feel the book would be less popular and successful.

The book deals with themes of loneliness, family, divorce, love, deceit, friendship, writing, and small miracles. There is mention by Dr. Meescham of her village having dark secrets, unmarked graves and terrible curses. There is some wonderful vocabulary used, and some thought provoking questions such as: “What good does it do you to read the words of a lie?” There are also some very funny lines including:
“George... we have a problem. Your daughter has become emotionally attached to a diseased squirrel.”

Hopefully with discussion, children will delve into each of the various topics raised in this book, and not solely enjoy the antics of super-hero Ulysses.

The illustrator refers, in a blurb, to bringing "life to the cast." This makes me wonder if it will become a movie or a series. I read part of this aloud: it was entertaining and would make a fun audio book.

I give this a 3.5 rating. It will certainly be one of the more accessible Newbery Medal winners, and likely will remain popular for years to come. For divorce, family, loneliness, love, deceit, friendship, miracles, superheroes, and fans of Kate DiCamillo.
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LibraryThing member Octokitten
Comic book lover Flora witnesses the superhero transformation of a squirrel when he's sucked into a vacuum cleaner. After saving the incredible rodent and witnessing his amazing new powers, Flora dubs him Ulysses after the vacuum that nearly took his life. Knowing that the text version of the book is adorably illustrated, I was worried that the audiobook would fall short but was pleasantly surprised. Tara Sands' heartfelt narration and expressive voices bring Flora in all her 10-year-old cynicism to life with comic-style bravado. The story is equal parts touching and hilarious, with a pleasant mixture of laugh out loud moments and tears. Flora and Ulysses make an absolutely unforgettable pair in any format, but I think I prefer the text version (which I read as well) to the audiobook for the comic panel style illustrations that make up the "illuminated adventures". A truly fantastic read.… (more)
LibraryThing member Imandayeh
Holy bagumba! This Newbery Medal was truly deserved. This quirky story is everything that anyone would want in a story. I love the Dicamillo's style of writing. I loved the comic book inspired illustrations throughout the book. Although the book is really fun and comical it had a heavy plot line. I hightly recommend this book for grades 3-5.… (more)
LibraryThing member mariekagreene
Though the plot is fairly simple, the writing is truly stunning at moments. The illustrations are lovely, and highlight comedic and "action" moments in the super-hero's life. A delightful read!
LibraryThing member sgrame
Flora Buckman's life changes the day she first comes upon a squirrel... a squirrel who is now a super hero after being sucked up by a vacuum cleaner. Ulysses emerges- a squirrel who can fly, type poetry and understand humans! Influenced by her favorite comic book hero The Amazing Incandesto, Flora sees Ulysses' unique qualities right away. Although his evil arch nemesis (Flora's mom) wants him out of the picture, Flora loses some of her self-professed cynicism as her dad gets on the team. Told often in comic book style, this is a novel of not-epic proportions. Themes of possibility and forgiveness give the book some strong points though, and the style may be the foot in the door for comic book diehards to novels. This book is most appropriate for grades 3-5.… (more)




(483 ratings; 4.1)
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