Texas Bluebonnet Award 2014-2015

Resources for the TBA Nominees

Flora & Ulysses


Flora & Ulysses
by Kate DiCamillo

Scroll down to find Related Activities & Resources, Book Talk Teasers, Read Alikes, and Book Reviews.

Readers Theater Script – Flora & Ulysses (PDF)


Author’s website:

Flora and Ulysses website (Candlewick Press’ Teacher’s Guide includes writing prompts. vocabulary, an art project, a discussion guide, an author Q & A and more):

Flora and Ulysses–Boston NPR’s interview with Kate DiCamillo: http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/10/01/girl-squirrel-book

USA Today–Interview with the author:

Superhero Squirrels–Santiago Pérez Alonso, a Spanish Photoshop enthusiast, took a picture of a heroic looking squirrel and turned it into a series of superhero squirrels:

Comic Book Creator (online comic book creator): http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/comic/index.html

Comic Book Creator Group Project: “Comic Book Show & Tell”:

Flora and Ulysses Storyboard


Dramatically read the inside flap.

Read Chapter 4.


Other books by Kate DiCamillo (Author Appeal):

Bink & Gollie. Two roller-skating best friends–one tiny, one tall–share three comical adventures involving outrageously bright socks, an impromptu trek to the Andes, and a most unlikely marvelous companion. (NoveList)

Louise, the adventures of a chicken. Longing for adventure, intrepid Louise leaves her comfortable nest and goes to sea. (NoveList)

The magician’s elephant. When ten-year-old orphan Peter Augustus Duchene encounters a fortune teller in the marketplace one day and she tells him that his sister, who is presumed dead, is in fact alive, he embarks on a remarkable series of adventures as he desperately tries to find her. (NoveList)

Mercy Watson to the rescue. After Mercy the pig snuggles to sleep with the Watsons, all three awaken with the bed teetering on the edge of a big hole in the floor. (NoveList)

The tale of Despereaux (Newbery Award winner).The adventures of Despereaux Tilling, a small mouse of unusual talents, the princess that he loves, the servant girl who longs to be a princess, and a devious rat determined to bring them all to ruin. (NoveList)

The tiger rising. Rob, who passes the time in his rural Florida community by wood carving, is drawn by his spunky but angry friend Sistine into a plan to free a caged tiger. (NoveList)

Other attention-grabbing novels (Writing Style Appeal):

Benz, Derek. The rise of the Black Wolf. Aided by the Knights Templar, the four young Grey Griffins face a host of evil forces, including Morgan LaFey’s Black Wolves, who kidnap Max’s father while the quartet is spending what at first seemed a fairytale Christmas break at the Sumner’s castle in Scotland. (NoveList)

Clark, Henry. What we found in the sofa (and how it saved the world). Finding a rare zucchini-colored crayon leads twelve-year-old River Monroe and his friends on an adventure with their eccentric neighbor to save Earth from invading interstellar storm troopers. (NoveList)

Horvath, Polly. Mr. and Mrs. Bunny–detectives extraordinaire!. When Madeline’s parents go missing, she encounters two bunnies who have decided to take up detective work and are willing to come to her aid. (NoveList)

Hood, Ann. Angel of the battlefield. When their parents divorce, twelve-year-old twins Felix and Maisie move with their mother to live in the attic of a historic Newport, Rhode Island, mansion where they discover a hidden room that carries with it an intriguing secret. (NoveList)

Other character-driven novels (Character Appeal):

Appelt, Kathi. Keeper. Ten-year-old Keeper lives a happy, simple life on the Gulf Coast of Texas with patient and loving Signe, her guardian. But Keeper is afraid that she’s ruined everything, and she needs to find her mom–who Keeper truly believes is a mermaid–in order to make things right. Giving away too many details would ruin this moving and magical story of family, love, secrets, and taking chances…this book will hold you spellbound. (NoveList)

Other plot-driven novels (Storyline Appeal):

Napoli, Donna Jo. Lights on the Nile. Ten-year-old Kepi, a young girl in ancient Egypt, embarks on a journey to save her family when she is unexpectedly taken captive, along with the baby baboon she has rescued from a crocodile. An origin tale about fairies. (NoveList)

Other moving novels (Tone Appeal):

Applegate, Katherine. The one and only Ivan. When Ivan, a gorilla who has lived for years in a down-and-out circus-themed mall, meets Ruby, a baby elephant that has been added to the mall, he decides that he must find her a better life. (NoveList)

Tolan, Stephanie S. Wishworks, Inc. When he is granted his wish for a dog from Wishworks, Inc., third-grader Max is disappointed to find that his new pet is nothing like the dog of his imagination. (NoveList)


★Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. By Kate DiCamillo. Illus. by K. G. Campbell. 2013. 240p. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763660406). Gr 3–6. (Booklist, June 1, 2013).

The story begins with a vacuum cleaner. And a squirrel. Or, to be more precise, a squirrel who gets sucked into a Ulysses Super Suction wielded by Flora’s neighbor, Mrs. Tickham. The rather hairless squirrel that is spit out is not the same one that went in. That squirrel had only one thought: “I’m hungry.” After Flora performs CPR, the rescued squirrel, newly named Ulysses, is still hungry, but now he has many thoughts in his head. Foremost is his consideration of Flora’s suggestion that perhaps he is a superhero like The Amazing Incandesto, whose comic-book adventures Flora read with her father. (Drawing on comic-strip elements, Campbell’s illustrations here work wonderfully well.) Since Flora’s father and mother have split up, Flora has become a confirmed and defiant cynic. Yet it is hard to remain a cynic while one’s heart is opening to a squirrel who can type (“Squirtl. I am . . . born anew”), who can fly, and who adores Flora. Newbery winner DiCamillo is a master storyteller, and not just because she creates characters who dance off the pages and plots, whether epic or small, that never fail to engage and delight readers. Her biggest strength is exposing the truths that open and heal the human heart. She believes in possibilities and forgiveness and teaches her audience that the salt of life can be cut with the right measure of love.— Ilene Cooper

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
DiCamillo, Kate. 2013. Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. Illustrated by K. G. Campbell. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. Hardback: 9780763660406, eBook: 9780763667245, Audiobook: 9780449015131.

Ten-year-old Flora is a fan of comic-book superheroes, so it seems perfectly natural to her when a squirrel vacuumed up by the neighbor and revived by Flora develops intellectual and physical powers. Ulysses the squirrel can understand human speech, lift heavy objects, and fly, and Flora’s mother finds it all utterly unacceptable, planning to do away with the unnatural prodigy. Fortunately, with help from Flora’s dad, a temporarily blind boy named William, and William’s aunt, Tootie (operator of the powerful vacuum), Flora manages to finally convince her mother of Ulysses’ worth and repair a bit of their own strained relationship. The premise of a squirrel with superhero powers is certainly an original and intriguing one. There is also palpable angst in Flora’s conflicts with her mother, genuine hope in her growing friendship with William, and a satisfying amount of humor sprinkled throughout. The twee voice and excessively quirky characters, however, frequently threaten to upend the story while Flora’s mother’s speedy transformation from attempted squirrel-murderer to apologetic and loving mother also strains credulity. Campbell’s attractive, soft-focus pencil illustrations, often appearing in comic-like panels, add individuality and depth to the characters and carry some of the narrative. Despite the book’s flaws, this may appeal to kids with a bent for graphic novels and comics, or to those who wish they, too, could have a superhero squirrel for a BFF.

Review Code: Ad — Additional book of acceptable quality for collections needing more material in the area. Grades 4-6. Jeannette Hulick (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, November 2013 (Vol. 67, No. 3))

Horn Book:
Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

by Kate DiCamillo; illus. by K. G. Campbell
Intermediate     Candlewick     232 pp.
9/13     978-0-7636-6040-6     $17.99     g
e-book ed. 978-0-7636-6724-5     $17.99

Ten-year-old Flora Belle Buckman’s life changes when she resuscitates a squirrel after his near-death experience with her neighbor’s Ulysses 2000X vacuum. Flora discovers that the incident has caused the squirrel, whom she also names Ulysses, to acquire superpowers. Despite being a “natural-born cynic,” Flora’s lively imagination and love of comics such as The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto! help her believe that Ulysses is bound for superhero greatness. There’s only one problem: Ulysses’s archnemesis, Flora’s self-absorbed, romance novel–writing, squirrel-hating mother. Beneath the basic superhero-squirrel-friend plot, DiCamillo imbues this novel with emotion by focusing on larger life issues such as loss and abandonment, acceptance of difference, loneliness, love, overcoming fears, and the complexity of relationships. She also adds plenty of warmth and humor throughout: Flora enjoys using catch phrases and big words (“holy bagumba!”; malfeasance; capacious); Ulysses loves to eat…just about anything; and there is a quirky supporting cast, including Flora’s absent-minded father, her eleven-year-old neighbor William Spiver, and his great-aunt, Tootie Tickham. Campbell’s full-page and spot pencil illustrations accentuate the mood, while interspersed comic-book pages “illuminate” Ulysses’s superhero adventures and serve as a nice visual complement to Flora’s love of comics. This little girl and squirrel and their heartwarming tale could melt even the most hardened archnemesis’s heart. CYNTHIA K. RITTER – Reprinted from The Horn Book Magazine by permission of The Horn Book, Inc., www.hbook.com

School Library Journal:
DiCamillo, Kate. Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

★Gr 4–6—Flora, obsessed with superhero comics, immediately recognizes and gives her wholehearted support to a squirrel that, after a near-fatal brush with a vacuum cleaner, develops the ability to fly and type poetry. The 10-year-old hides her new friend from the certain disapproval of her self-absorbed, romance-writer mother, but it is on the woman’s typewriter that Ulysses pours out his creations. Like DiCamillo’s The Magician’s Elephant (Candlewick, 2009), this touching piece of magical realism unfolds with increasing urgency over a mere few days and brings its somewhat caricatured, old-fashioned characters together into what becomes a supportive community for all. Campbell’s rounded and gentle soft-penciled illustrations, at times in the form of panel art furthering the action, wonderfully match and add to the sweetness of this oddball story. Rife with marvelously rich vocabulary reminiscent of the early superhero era (e.g., “Holy unanticipated occurrences!”) and amusing glimpses at the world from the point of view of Ulysses the supersquirrel, this book will appeal to a broad audience of sophisticated readers. There are plenty of action sequences, but the novel primarily dwells in the realm of sensitive, hopeful, and quietly philosophical literature.—Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC


3 thoughts on “Flora & Ulysses

  1. Pingback: Welcome! | Texas Bluebonnet Award 2014-2015

  2. Pingback: Holy Bagumba! Kate DiCamillo Pens Another Winner | Not Going Postal

  3. Pingback: Flora And Ulysses : Inspires students to Reflect, Write, and Create | Just a Click Away

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