In my house, when we open a Kate DiCamillo book, the expectations are high. We are hopeful that there will be strange and beautiful characters, a captivating story, a reluctant adventure for a perhaps not so bold adventurer, and always, always, there will be cheering at the end. Flora and Ulysses did not disappoint. And, as astonishing as it may seem, it even exceeded our expectations, because there seemed to be cheering most of the way through, in some form or another.
I, personally, am in awe of DiCamillo’s talent. Let me be honest, it is not always easy to keep my 9 and 11 year old readers (who have library books of their own to read, thank you very much) enthralled for at least a week of reading aloud each night. I know that I will not go gently when they deny me this precious time together.
Because Kate DiCamillo has pretty much made her reputation on the undervalued, the overlooked, and the downtrodden, we are given here a new entry into the category. But this time, it is the bold Ulysses. He is strong, so strong. He can fly; yes, really, he can fly. He can vanquish his arch-nemesis. He can put fear in the eyes of a very large, high-haired waitress. He can send a menacing attack-cat sailing down a hallway. But more than that, he can love. Ulysses loves a little, round-headed girl, and her strange, temporarily blind friend. And, he writes poetry. Types it, to be precise.
Who is this brave Ulysses? You might be wondering how he can possibly represent the downtrodden if he is so brave and strong and cultured. Well, Ulysses is a squirrel. A squirrel, actually, who was vacuumed up, and then reborn, into what may possibly be the first poetry-writing superhero. Did I mention he’s a squirrel? A typing one? Yes, I think I did. Enough said; you need to read this book. You will laugh, and laugh. And, if you are a sentimental grown-up, you will also cry, and pretend like something got stuck in your eye. Because it did, and that was not sad at all, that part about the four little words. So there, I’m fine. Actually, I’m so much better having read this book.