10-year-old Flora Belle Buckman is a natural-born cynic, a hater of romance, and a reader of comics, specifically, The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto! One day she notices her neighbor vacuuming the front lawn–don’t ask–when the vacuum gets a little too near a squirrel.
“Hey, now,” said Flora.
She banged on the window.
“Watch out!” she shouted. “You’re going to vacuum up that squirrel!”
…It didn’t make any difference, though, what words she said. Flora was too far away. The vacuum cleaner was too loud. And also, clearly, it was bent on destruction.
…She stood at the window and watched as the squirrel was vacuumed up.
“Holy bagumba,” said Flora.
Flora rushes outside and manages to revive him, only to find that this is no longer an ordinary squirrel. Transformed by his near-death experience, he now has incredible strength, the ability to fly, and a penchant for writing poetry. He is…Ulysses! Together they try to defend the weak, put an end to malfeasance, and procure snacks–preferably donuts, with sprinkles. Yet, for all the adorableness and humor packed in this tale, there is a serious side to Flora & Ulysses. Flora’s parents have separated and her mother seems to care only for her work–she is a romance novelist–and a large, gaudy lamp in the shape of a shepherdess. Family trouble and Flora’s isolation underlie the story, making her friendship with the squirrel and his feats all the more powerful.
Flora’s adoration of Incandesto is not only reflected in the superhero motif in the story, but in the illustrations as well. Comics-style spreads are scattered throughout the book and bring DiCamillo’s story to life. K.G. Campbell‘s black and white drawings radiate a warmth and gentleness that is the perfect complement to Kate DiCamillo’s storytelling style. Similar in feel to Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo has written an instantly touching, uniquely sweet book that I dare anyone not to like.