• Happy birthday Barthe DeClements (Nothing’s Fair in the Fifth Grade), Edward Ormondroyd (David and the Phoenix), R. L. Stine (Goosebumps series), Faith Ringgold (Tar Beach), and Mike Thaler (Black Lagoon Adventure series).
  • In 1775 officers bar slaves and free blacks from the Continental Army. Read Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M. T. Anderson.
  • In 1971, former Beatle John Lennon releases “Imagine.” Read John’s Secret Dream by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier.
  • It’s American Touch Tag Day. Read Tag! by Ann Bryant, illustrated by Kirsteen H. Jones, and Jamaica Tag-Along by Juanita Havill, illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien.
  • It’s World Egg Day. Read Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss, Chicken’s Aren’t the Only Ones by Ruth Heller, First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, andEggs by Jerry Spinelli.

October is National Reading Group Month, and our author of the day, Kate diCamillo, has always been one of my favorite choices for reading groups. Now, I admit I am a sucker for a Kate DiCamillo story. From the beginning of her first book Because of Winn Dixie to the last page of Flora & Ulysses, our book of the day, I have been an appreciative DiCamillo reader. No matter where Kate is taking me, I stay glued, rapidly turning the pages to finish her tale; I simply love how she tells stories.

And the one she tells in Flora & Ulysses is a doozy. Using a part novel, part graphic novel form, Kate takes her readers on a romp. The story’s heroine, Flora, rescues a squirrel that has been swept into a vacuum cleaner. Fortunately, because she applies CPR, he lives, and she names him Ulysses. This incident has transformed Ulysses into the kind of superhero Flora loves to read about. He can fly; he can accomplish incredible feats.

Ulysses, however, manages to bring about his most important acts as he changes those around him. Flora’s mother, a totally distracted writer, starts to notice her daughter and the squirrel friend—who she decides must be destroyed. Flora’s divorced father begins to find his sense of humor again. William Spiver, a young boy in the neighborhood, steps up to the plate and stands by Flora in all her travails.

Although a superhero, Ulysses remains quite squirrel-like in the text. He spends an inordinate amount of his time thinking about food—that is, when he isn’t typing poetry (Ah, yes, that little detail). He writes amazing poetry. As you can see, these elements are not your usual story fare. But I fell for them—hook, line, and sinker. “Holy bagumba!” as Flora would say.

Not only is the book a testament to DiCamillo’s storytelling abilities, it has also been beautifully designed. The text perfectly corresponds with the energetic and expressive art and is given space to breathe on the page. And the paper, an exquisite cream-colored stock of medium weight, not only looks good, it has a wonderful smell. You don’t even have to take my word for this: John Schumacher, a librarian at Brook Forest Elementary School in Oak Brook, Illinois, recently reported that one of his third graders, whose hobby is smelling the offerings of the school library, reported that “This book smells delicious.” Flora & Ulysses has even passed the all-important third grade sniff test.

Holy bagumba, Kate DiCamillo, superheroine, you have done it again—created a book that is a joy for adults and children alike. It is perfect as a family read-aloud or for an adult/child reading group.

Happy National Reading Group Month; I hope you find many books this month that are as enjoyable as Flora & Ulysses.

Here’s a page from Flora & Ulysses:






Rita jumped up and down. She put her hands to her head. She swatted and clawed, trying to dislodge him. The harder she hit him, the more fiercely the squirrel clung.

In this way, Rita and Ulysses danced together around the Giant Do-Nut.


Originally posted October 8, 2013. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Squirrels
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Flora & Ulysses


  1. I can’t wait to read it! Thanks for this review and for the whole almanac, I really love it!

  2. Valerie Bang-Jensen says:

    It’s laugh out loud funny.

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