Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Award for best children’s book of 2013. The announcement was made this morning, and I realized that I actually had the book, checked out from the library and waiting to be read on my shelf. So I read it.
Flora and Ulysses is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. For some reason, the story and the writing reminded me of P.G. Wodehouse, although for the most part it’s nothing like Wodehouse—except in their shared wackiness. Anyway, I’m exquisitely pleased that this partiular book won the Newbery Medal. I recommended it to Z-baby as soon as I finished it, and she’s reading it now. Let’s see . . . how to tell you what the book is about: a giant magical vacuum cleaner, a flying squirrel poet, a cynical ten year old girl named Flora Belle Buckham, dunking donuts, superheroes, nefarious malfeasance, and a vanquished cat. That ought to be sufficient to whet your appetite.
Young readers will also enjoy the interspersed graphic novel parts, the wisdom of our round-headed protagonist, Flora, and the intrepid squirrel. I liked it all. Who wouldn’t enjoy a book for kids that dares to use big, beautiful words like “capacious” and “preternaturally” and “positing” and “hyperbole”? And it’s a book that asks questions, lots of questions, such as:
What good does it do you to read the words of a lie?
Is gianter a word?
Who can say what astonishments are hidden inside the most mundane being?
Don’t we all live in our heads? Where else could we possibly exist?
So, now that the Newbery committee and I have built up your expectations to impossible heights, go read Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures with no expectations at all. Just think of it as possibly another boring award-winning book that those East Coast librarians and publishing-types have picked because it’s good for you.
Then be delighted.
Footnote: I must be prescient or something because I also have the Caldecott winner, Locomotive by Brian Floca, on hold at the library.