Oh, I wanted to love this book. I really, really did. I really enjoyed the majority of diCamillo books I’ve read, so when I saw a friend’s son reading this one, I asked to borrow it. (He’s in second grade and quite a reader, but I waited to ask his opinion until after I had finished reading it.) Turns out, the second grader and I had the same response to the story! To be perfectly honest with you, I had completely forgotten that I read this book until I saw it in a bookstore the other day…and I just read it last month.
Overall, it was okay. “Meh” is my preferred statement here. The story starts out fanciful enough…the squirrel, Ulysses, is sucked into a vacuum cleaner and then rescued by Flora. Flora is obsessed with comic books, which annoys her romance-novel writing mother. Flora’s parents are divorced and it is a strained relationship, so her escape into comic books is understandable. Her father shares her love of comic books, although he seems to have some major issues dealing with the difficulties in his life, too, so it makes sense that he shares Flora’s escapism.
Ulysses develops all sorts of super powers after his vacuum incident-He can fly! He can type! He can understand human speech! He’s a poet! But, by the end of the book, I still wasn’t really sure what the point of the whole relationship was for Flora. Perhaps it was more escapism?? There are other periphery characters, but I honestly can’t remember their names or much about them. When I asked my second grade friend what he thought, his response was pretty much the same: “It was okay. I think the book was supposed to be funny, but I didn’t really like it.” (Now, to be clear, this kid READS, and we’ve chatted about books before, so I’m fairly confident in his opinion.)
If you have a comic book obsessed child, this may be right up his/her alley. Know that the mother says some rather unkind things to her daughter on more than one occasion, although in the end it is more or less resolved. If you want a richer, more interesting diCamillo book, I would steer towards something like Because of Winn Dixie or Tale of Despereaux, instead.