Reviews

Illuminating, indeed: Flora and Ulysses– the Illuminated Adventures

DiCamillo, Kate. Flora & Ulysses — the Illuminated Adventures. Illustrated by K. G. Campbell. Candlewick Press, 2013. 231 pages. Hardcover $15.34, ISBN 978-0-7636-6040-6; 2015 Tr. $7.69; ISBN 978-0-7636-7671-1; 2016 Tr. $5.99, ISBN 978-0-7636-8764-9; 2015 PLB $13.61, ISBN 978-1-48985-703-3; 2016 PLB $12.01, ISBN 978-1-53790-222-7

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Fantasy/Animal Story

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

Flora’s vocabulary is a mix of high-scoring SAT words and comic book exaggeration, but it’s a delightful blend. Ulysses (a squirrel so named for the vacuum that nearly killed him and ends up imbuing him with superhero strength) is a poetry-writing, cat-fighting, high-flying squirrel determined to live life to its fullest. Will Flora’s mother (Ulysses’s arch-nemesis) successfully kill Ulysses? Or will Ulysses show everyone the power of love?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Holy Bagumba! Another gem from DiCamillo, this book is utterly absorbing. I’m not the only one to think so; my copy from the library has annotations as a previous reader or two puzzled out the meanings of DiCamillo’s heftier vocab words. There are also annotations translated words and phrases into Chinese characters. While many might take pause at having a written-in library book, I was actually really happy to see that a reader was working through the text and making it work for them.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a wonderful book club book, and it could also be a good branching-out title for a reluctant reader. While not a graphic novel, it is “illuminated” with comic-strip interludes showing the action in a new way. It could be a good read for kids who are trying to read titles that aren’t quite Diary of a Wimpy Kid in style but that still incorporate a lot of illustration. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2014

Booklist starred 6/1/13

Kirkus Reviews starred 7/1/13

Newbery Medal 2014

Publishers Weekly starred 6/24/13

School Library Journal starred 8/1/13

 

Reviews referenced:

Bird, E. (2013, June 10). Review of the day: Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo (Review of the book Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures). School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2013/06/10/review-of-the-day-flora-and-ulysses-by-kate-dicamillo/  Eisenhart, M. (n. d.). Flora and Ulysses: The illuminated adventures (Review of the book Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/flora-ulysses-the-illuminated-adventures#

 

Does the Squirrel Die? :   NO

 

Tags: comics, squirrels, vacuums, belief, writers, love, animal stories, superheroes

Reviews

Late to the show: The One and Only Ivan

Applegate, Katherine. The One and Only Ivan. Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2015. 341 pages. Hardcover $21.29, ISBN 978-0-06-242524-9; Tr. $6.84, ISBN 978-0-06-199227-8; PLB $13.71, ISBN 978-1-48983-627-4

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Animal stories

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

This story, told by Ivan the gorilla, relates Ivan, Stella the elephant, Bob the “wild” dog, and Ruby the baby elephant’s tale of woe, stress, and victory. Their “victory” is bittersweet as not everyone can survive the cruelty that humans perpetrate upon animals. As Ruby says, however, not all humans are bad, and it’s up to Ivan to find a way to persuade good people to help him and his friends find a better life outside of cages.

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Be prepared to cry your eyes out! This is a sweet, beautiful, and extremely poignant book. I cried several times while reading it (reinforcing my “no books with animals on the cover” rule!). It’s definitely a worthy read, but have some tissues handy if you use it for a book club.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a great book club book. There are many topics that come up throughout the novel that would lead to powerful group discussions — animal rights, art, and humanity could all be fruitful topics. A book club activity could be finger painting or watercoloring like Ivan does. (Ideas from myself)

 

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2013

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred 2/1/12

Kirkus Reviews starred 10/15/11

Newbery Medal 2013

School Library Journal starred 1/1/12

 

Reviews referenced:

Eisenhart, M. (n. d.). The one and only Ivan (Review of the book The One and Only Ivan). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-one-and-only-ivan

Bird, E. (2012, March 7). Review of the day: The one and only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Review of the book The One and Only Ivan). School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2012/03/07/review-of-the-day-the-one-and-only-ivan-by-katherine-applegate/

Publishers Weekly. (2011, Nov. 14). The one and only Ivan (Review of the book The One and Only Ivan). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-06-199225-4

 

Does anyone die? :  YES. Stella dies and it is very sad. Ivan survives.