Sunday, November 3, 2013

Flora & Ulysses

Hello?  Hello?

Is this thing on?

Oh, it's working.  Guess that can't be my excuse for going silent for 2 months...


I recently read Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo.  As soon as I finished I thought, "This is a book I have to blog about."

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

The place to start with this book is literally the first page of Chapter One.  I just can't get enough of Flora in this book...I am obsessed with the voice Kate DiCamillo has chosen to use.

Flora Belle Buckman was in her room at her desk.  She was very busy.  She was doing two things at once.  She was ignoring her mother, and she was also reading a comic book entitled The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto! (p. 5)

See what I mean?  It's amazing.

In this book, Flora's neighbor, Mrs. Tickham, receives a vacuum cleaner for her birthday.  (NOTE TO HUSBANDS:  THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.)  Even if it is a Ulysses Super-Suction, Multi-Terrain 2000X.

Let's just say this doesn't go over well with Mrs. Tickham, Mr. Tickham tries to impress her with its features, and the vacuum ends up flying out the door, into the backyard, and sweeping up a squirrel.

Flora sees all of this from her bedroom window.  And since one of her favorite comics is titled "Terrible Things Can Happen To You", she is always prepared for disaster.  She rescues the squirrel (now named Ulysses), who has gained some unexpected superpowers.  

So begins the story.  

There is quite a cast of unusual characters - 

Flora's mother - a romance novelist - Flora cannot stand romance

Flora's father - who will always introduce himself, even if he's met you before

William Spiver - who is "suffering from temporary blindness induced by trauma"

Mary Ann - a shepherdess-shaped lamp that Flora's mother loves dearly

The more I got into this book, the more I felt for Flora.  She feels misunderstood by her mother.  She doesn't get to see her father that often.  Ulysses is the first "person" that she has felt emotions for in quite some time.

There is one more passage I need to share.  Kate DiCamillo's words can be so powerful:

(This is a conversation with her mother - but I don't want to give too much away)

Those four words (so small, so simple, so ordinary) came flying at Flora like enormous slabs of stone.  She actually felt herself tip sideways as they hit her.  She put up a hand and held on to Ulysses.  She used the squirrel to steady herself. (p. 151)

Powerful stuff.  I think that would be a great passage to use as a mentor text in writing. 

I also have many kids in my class who love writing graphic novels.  Since this book has some short comics (amazing illustrations by K.G. Campbell) in between some chapters, I think it would be a great mentor for incorporating narrative and comics into one piece of writing.

Obviously, I loved this book.  After checking it out from the library, I bought a copy for my classroom.  But (and I do have a "but" about this book), I am not sure if the humor will make it through to my 5th graders.  It "might" be one of those books that adults can appreciate more than kids.  I do have two kiddos in mind that I am going to recommend it to first...I'm actually hoping to snag another copy and maybe they can try reading it together.

Have you read Flora & Ulysses?  Have any of your students read it?  I'd love to hear what you think!  

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