Johanna’s Letter Essay #9: Flora and Ulysses

I have just finished reading Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. This was a 233 page fantasy book published in 2013. It is rated 3.9/5 and has 3, 800 reviews on Amazon. This book was the 39th book of my 40 book challenged, which I have just finished. Kate DiCamillo is a popular children’s book writer who is one of 6 people who have won two Newbery medals, one for The Tale of Despereaux (2003) and the second for Flora and Ulysses (2013). She is a 42 year-old woman from Philadelphia. Her best known books for young children are the Mercy Watson series illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. I was not recommended this book but it looked interesting so I wanted to read it. To be honest I was a bit skeptical at first since the front cover had a squirrel and a girl on it but I gave it a try. Throughout the whole book weird things were always happening, it was a fun book but not serious at all. The book itself is about Flora, a cynic girl who lives with just her mother. It all starts when a regular squirrel is sucked up by a vacuum, yes, a vacuum. When the squirrel is rescued from the vacuum, it is like he gained superpowers. Not only can he lift up the vacuum but he can type, yes, a typing squirrel. When Flora finds out about these powers she decides to name him Ulysses and keep him as a pet. Their friendship grows and they learn how to communicate with each other. They somehow become an unstoppable crime killing team. Throughout the book things become stranger and stranger. Like for instance a squirrel flying or writing poetry. The unstoppable team is stopped when Flora’s mother finds out, but Flora will do everything she can in order to keep the squirrel. This book was very unique and it was fun to read it. It was also a break from hard genres that I had read before this book.

One thing I liked about this book was how fun it was. It really brought me back to elementary school and the types of books I would read there. Even though I am in 8th grade now it was a nice break to read about nonsense and fantasy. Even though this book was about squirrel superpowers it still had meaning behind it, some things in this book actually had a good message behind it. I liked the way the author made this book so believable. At some points I actually forgot that things couldn’t happen in real life. She really made the characters developed and I really got the tone of the book. Another thing I liked was the range of characters. All of them were so different but there were so few of them. All of them seemed a little insane in the head and acted very outside of society’s expectations. There was a lot of variety and that is good in a story. I understood why Flora’s character wasn’t very emotional and that’s because she is a cynic. This following passage really captures how all the madness starts, it is also very early into the book.

“And then she saw that Mrs.Tickham and the vacuum cleaner were headed directly for the squirrel.

“Hey, now,” said Flora.

She banged on the window.

“Watch out!” she shouted. “You’re going to vacuum up that squirrel!”

She said the words, and then she had a strange moment of seeing them, hanging there over her head.


There is just no predicting what kind of sentences you might say, thought Flora. For instance, who would ever think you would shout, “You’re going to vacuum up that squirrel!”?

It didn’t make any difference, though, what words she said. Flora was too far away.” (pg. 4)

This book was very silly and crazy overall. I would rate it a 7 out of 10 because it was a good read and it went by very fast. I actually finished this book in 3 days because it felt very fast. I would recommend this book as a break book from hard literature. Overall I liked the concept and it was a very fun book.

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