What’s a ten-year-old girl named Flora to do when her mother dotes on a pretty porcelain lamp named Mary Ann instead of on Flora? Become a cynic, of course!
Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses (2013) tells a winsome and magical story about a tomboy girl and a squirrel. Despite her self-declared cynicism, Flora adores comic books, especially those about an unassuming janitor who transforms into a shining light of rescue. So she is delighted when a squirrel in the neighbor’s yard apparently gains superpowers, and becomes able to fly and lift heavy things.
Meanwhile, the squirrel is suddenly able to understand what this human girl is saying. He even types poetry on her mother’s typewriter. But her mother declares him diseased and wants to put him out of his misery. Is Flora’s life starting to resemble a comic book? What’s next?
Flora & Ulysses indirectly echoes the author’s Christian worldview by evoking a vision of healing and spiritual wholeness.
Best for: Older kids (for example, from ages eight to twelve); anyone who enjoys uplifting stories with some fantastical quirks.
Discern: Instances of lighthearted, anything-can-happen magic; depictions of an argumentative, unhappy marriage.