Flora Belle Buckman, a self-described cynic, has a life that was far from extraordinary until the day she sees a squirrel get sucked up by a vacuum cleaner. Holy bagumba! But the vacuum, the Ulysses Super-Suction, Multi-Terrain 2000X, does something to the small squirrel. He doesn’t just get sucked up, he manages to pull himself out and throw the vacuum! Flora, who has spent her entire life reading about superheroes in The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto! knows that this is no ordinary squirrel. This squirrel has superpowers! Holy unanticipated occurences! And it’s true, Ulysses (named after that fateful machine), has super strength, the ability to fly, communicate with humans, and even type poetry! With the help of a cast of quirky, but loveable characters, the two friends rely on one another to get out of sticky situations, escape the clutches of the arch-nemesis, and ultimately find their places in the world.
This hybrid chapter book/graphic novel explores different types of friendship and love as the two main characters try to figure out where they belong. Each of the characters is remarkable and unique, making for humorous dialogue and situations. Flora herself is an introspective, sensitive child who doesn’t often get to express her thoughts and feelings to the adults in her life. Written in third person, the text and illustrations allow readers into the minds of both Flora and Ulysses. The text and illustrations are seamlessly interwoven; both are needed to tell the full story. Campbell’s pencil illustrations, presented in comic book-ish panels, help to push the plot forward with visual humor. They also provide context and make clever use of speech and thought bubbles. The plot is interwoven with symbolism and foreshadowing, that allows DiCamillo to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion through a series of coincidences (or are they?). Using a wide and varied vocabulary the story is divided into very short chapters, each one leaving the reader hanging and yearning for more.
*Talk about the elements of a superhero and an arch-nemisis. Have kids imagine what it would be like to have a pet with superpowers. Have them write and illustrate their description.
*Have kids write a list poem, as Ulysses does in the story.
*Read more about the back story of this book.
*More books by DiCamillo:
After Iris by Natasha Farrant
Boom by Mark Haddon
What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World by Henry Clark
RECOMMENDED AGE/GRADE LEVEL
Age 8+ / Grade 3+