Review: Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

flora and ulysses

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K. G. Campbell

Flora is a self-proclaimed cynic who hated romance but loved comic books.  It was the sound of the new vacuum cleaner that interrupted her superhero reading and she made it to the window in time to see her mother swept right off her feet by the power of the vacuum cleaner.  Then the vacuum headed straight for a squirrel.  The squirrel didn’t see it coming, but Flora did and she raced down to see if he could be saved.  The squirrel survived, a lot more bald than he had been, and was now named Ulysses.  Flora knew just what to do, since she spent a lot of time also reading the comic Terrible Things Can Happen to You!  This new friendship between girl and squirrel was made even more special by the superhero powers that Ulysses developed after his accident.  But life is not simple for a superhero squirrel and his human sidekick as they quickly find out.

DiCamillo has created yet another incredible read.  She manages to write such very different and distinct books from one another, making each one a delight and a surprise to pick up and open.  Here she manages to create a superhero book that will appeal to both fans of comics and non-fans.  I personally appreciate a book that has a female protagonist who loves comics.  The addition of a furry creature as a main character is also wonderful.  Ulysses manages to be both a full-fledged character but also remain primarily an animal.  All of this speaks to the skill of the writer and her ability to create honest characters even from absurd and hilarious situations.

Interspersed throughout the book are comic panels that tell some of the story.  The book begins with one of these introducing the vacuum cleaner and Flora’s parents.  Done in black and white, the comic panels are very funny and add just the right tribute to comics.

A great read-aloud, this unlikely superhero pair are sure to fly off the shelves.  Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away from Home by Jennifer Larue Huget

beginners guide to running away

The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away from Home by Jennifer Larue Huget, illustrated by Red Nose Studio

This book is a humorous look at running away from home done in the format of an instructional booklet on how exactly to run away.  First you have to find a reason for running away, perhaps a new baby, or your older brother can stay up later than you, or your mother threw away your candy wrapper collection.  Then you have to pack, make sure to take plenty of snacks including gum, that way you won’t need a toothbrush.  Then comes the farewell note.  Make it sad enough that your parents will cry when they find it.  Now you need to figure out where to live.  Keep walking until you can’t see your house anymore, then stop for a snack.  And think about living in the park forever, or if living with a friend would be better than at home.  But don’t think about what you like about your family at all or you might find yourself running back home.

Huget’s tone is perfect in her text.  She manages to be humorous about the situation but also not dismissive of the feelings that the child has.  Her wording works very nicely aloud, making this a book that is best shared and giggled at together.

Red Nose Studio, the illustrators of Here Comes the Garbage Barge, continue with their signature 3-D figures.  They use perspective very cleverly here, offering different levels of focus that show speed and point the eye to where they want you to look first.  The result are illustrations that are unique and dynamic.

Thanks to the humor and the illustrations, this is a book about running away that is worth seeking out.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.