“I promise to always turn back toward you.”
Looking out of her bedroom window, 10-year-old Flora sees a squirrel get sucked up by a vacuum that is being tested outdoors by her neighbor. She quickly heads over to rescue the squirrel only to find out it now has superpowers as it can lift the vacuum over its head. She promptly names it after the vacuum – Ulysses – and takes it home. Once home, she discovers Ulysses can also fly and type coherent sentences, usually poetry.
One of my daughters had read this book when she was on a Kate DiCamillo kick. We found it on CD at the library before a road trip and picked it up for us to all listen to. We thoroughly enjoyed it.
Flora uses a comic book she reads to guide her through her adventures that not only features the superhero Incandesto!, but a feature called Terrible Things Can Happen to You! She applies everything she knows about Incandesto! to Ulysses and uses examples from Terrible Things Can Happen to You! to know what to do in every crisis, including the squirrel possibly getting a concussion. Flora’s parents are divorced and Flora is having a hard time relating to her mother. Flora meets her neighbor’s great nephew who is temporarily blind due to a trauma. Her father also introduces her to his neighbor, who tells them at every turn what she did as a girl in Blundermeecen. All of these characters are on a quest to either get rid of or save the squirrel, but learn about love and life along the way. We also see the world from the squirrel’s point of view.
Overall, this story is about seeing the miraculous in every day life – love. It is silly, but it grabs you with its characters and sayings (“Holy bagumba!” and “Holy unanticipated occurrences!”) While written for about a 10-year-old or above reading level, the vocabulary will push most readers with words like capacious and malfeasance. (After reading the book, most children will never forget what they mean, though.)
I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to smile at the end of reading a book. I loved the ending. (There are the subjects of divorce, smoking, death, blindness and a child being sent away to live with an aunt.)
Book resources are available at www.floraandulysses.com.