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

Superheroes I love: El Deafo

Bell, Cece. El Deafo. Amulet Books, 2014. 233 pages. Hardcover $18.71, ISBN  978-1-41971-020-9; Tr. $9.36, ISBN 978-1-41971-217-3; PLB $14.41, ISBN 978-1-48984-422-4

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Biography/Memoir (Graphic Nonfiction)

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

This graphic “novel” tells the true story of Cece Bell’s childhood, and her experience with meningitis that took away her hearing. With characters drawn as rabbits in order to emphasize how different Cece’s ears were to those of her family, friends, and classmates, El Deafo explores what it is like to feel so different — and how that difference can set you apart in painful and cool ways.

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Bell’s book (writing and illustrations) work together to tell this extremely engaging story. Deaf and hearing readers will have something to learn and enjoy in reading this story, and Bell makes it clear in her afterword that one d/Deaf person’s story is not the same as another’s.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a fantastic book club book. I think that the major thing I would want to focus on is a discussion of what it means to have different abilities; perhaps we could watch a documentary on Deaf culture. We can also make superhero versions of ourselves based on the things that make us different. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2015

Horn Book Magazine starred 11/1/14

Kirkus Reviews starred 9/1/14

Newbery Honor 2015

Publishers Weekly starred 7/7/14

School Library Journal starred 9/1/14

 

Reviews referenced:

Berry, M. (n. d.). El Deafo (Review of the book El Deafo). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/el-deafo

Kirkus Reviews. (2014, July 22). El Deafo (Review of the book El Deafo). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/cece-bell/el-deafo/

Publishers Weekly. (2014, July 7). El Deafo (Review of the book El Deafo). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-4197-1020-9


Warnings: Vomit appears three times in the novel and is drawn as the act of vomiting (i.e., it happens “on the page” rather than “offstage”)

 

Tags: Deaf culture, hard of hearing, graphic novels, vomit, memoir, rabbits, imagination, superheroes

Reviews

Super Adventures: The Adventures of Superhero Girl

Hicks, Faith Erin. The Adventures of Superhero Girl. Dark Horse Books, 2013. 106 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-1-61655-084-4

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes, for older kids (6th-8th)

Genre: Superhero (Comic Strip Compilation)

Part of a series? Not at this time.

Plot Summary:

This book appears to be a compilation of comic strips into a “trade” paperback. I had gone into this one anticipating a graphic novel, so I was a little bit disappointed to lack a cohesive storyline, but Superhero Girl is readable enough that I wasn’t too badly upset. (I would love to follow her in a long-form arc, though!)

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Superhero Girl definitely skews on the older side; I was surprised that it was so readable and that it’s picked up by young kids due to Superhero Girl’s focus on finding a job, leaving college, and trying to attend parties or date. I don’t think it’s kid-unfriendly, but it does include things such as alcohol, dating, and the like.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

If a superhero unit was already in place, I would add this in as recommended reading. Otherwise, I would perhaps have students study a few panels of Hicks’s work and create a comic imitating her style in terms of art and tone. This way, Superhero Girl could be a library-only unit or get incorporated into an art class. (Idea from myself)

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a