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Holy bagumba! A girl, a squirrel, a vaccuum, a lamp and more! Flora & Ulysses – The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo

Flora and Ulysses, The Illuminated Adventures is definitely a book that will entertain and delight young readers  – as well as  their teachers and parents!flora.ulysses First off, I LOVED the illustrations and the comics. Such a great part of the story and we see Flora’s character develop both through the text and the comics. Flora is a young girl who often finds herself alone and looking for an escape through her comics. She is often frustrated by her mother (and her mother’s writing of romance novels) and is torn between two households, as she visits her father on weekends at an apartment complex. When Ulysses, the flying, poetry-writing, superhero squirrel enters her life, Flora sets off on a journey that will help her discover friendship, happiness, and a little bit of peace amid the chaos of life. She also discovers laughter. While reading this book, you will laugh out loud at Ulysses and Flora as they brave giant donuts and crazy mishaps, all while encountering very real and often familiar problems of sadness and uncertainty. Reading this book will bring about discussions of loneliness, hope, friends, happiness, adventure and love. Ultimately, Flora finds hope, and this is at the heart of the novel.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

  • Flora and her mother. What do you think of Flora and her mother? How does Flora feel about her mom? How do we know this as the reader? What clues are there about how Flora feels? Can you find a good quote from the book about Flora and her mother?
  • Flora misses her father terribly. What do we know about Flora’s father? What does Flora do when she visits her dad? Why does she look forward to these visits?
  • Ulysses astounds everyone with his poetry. And Flora declares him to be a superhero. What is a superhero? Do you think Ulysses is a superhero? Why or why not? What does he do that is out of the ordinary? Are any other characters in the book “superheros” in your opinion? What do we learn about Ulysses through his poems?
  • William (not Billy) tells Flora that he misses her. Why is this important to Flora? What do we learn about William (not Billy)? Why does he like to be called William? What does Flora think about William at first? Does she start to think differently about William? How do we know? What do you think of their friendship at the end of the book? What brings William and Flora together?
  • Ullysses the squirrel. What are some of the funny things that Ulysses does in the book? What are some of the most unbelievable things that Ulysses does – with Flora as his witness?
  • Why does Flora think that her mother wants the lamp? Is she correct? Are you surprised about what Flora’s mother was looking for during the chaos? Why? Or why not? Is Flora surprised?
  • Change. Many things – and relationships – change throughout the book. Flora and William. Flora and her mother. Flora and her father. Dr. Meescham and Mr. Klaus (the cat) bring about change for many of the characters. Possible essay topics for change: How does Flora change throughout the novel? How do we see Flora change? How are her parents part of this change? How does Flora and William Spiver’s relationship change throughout the book? What do we learn about Flora and William, and what is important about this relationship? What do we learn through Dr. Meescham and what do Flora, William, and Flora’s parents learn through Dr. Meescham?



I am not a fan of vocabulary worksheets, period. Probably because I spent a lot of time in junior high filling in vocabulary worksheets, matching, fill in the blank, and every week was a new set of twenty words. Yes, twenty. Now, reading Flora and Ulysses will present some amazing opportunities to teach new vocabulary words – without worksheets!

Words that cannot be missed when you read this book:

  • malfeasance
  • hyperbole
  • unanticipated
  • hallucination
  • mundane

Now are there other words in Flora and Ulysses to teach? Absolutely. This is a list of five words from the book. And I like these particular five words because they are important to the story, often repeated, and they provide multiple connections throughout the story. I also like the idea of limiting the vocabulary words for focus – it would be easy to come up with twenty words in this novel, but that doesn’t mean that the students will truly learn all of them. Five words will allow us to focus on depth of knowledge with each of the words. These words are also perfect for word mapping. Creating a word map will allow students to learn the new word in context and expand upon their knowledge of the word as they read the book. I like the word map pdf and discussion at Read Write Think

This word map pdf (available at Read Write Think) is a great resource. I also recommend adding additional blank pages and allowing students to keep all word maps/pages together while reading the novel. They will be able to add when they encounter one of their words again or a scene that they connect to one of their vocabulary words. Making more connections to other words and scenes in the book will help them solidify their understanding of the word. Malfeasance!


Ulysses is a squirrel who writes poetry. We have two of his poems in the book, “What It Said” on page 65 and the Epilogue “Squirrel Poetry” on page 232. This is a perfect opportunity to discuss poetry and point of view! What do we learn about Ulysses from his poetry? Can you write a poem from Ulysses’ point of view? Can you write a poem from the point of view of Flora, after the final chapter – Flora’s own “Epilogue”? What would Flora want everyone to learn from her poem? What would she want her parents to learn about her?

Websites & Resources

New York Times article “Super Squirrel”

Kate DiCamillo on ‘Flora and Ulysses’ (YouTube)

Holy bagumba! Please read this fabulous adventure of a girl and a squirrel, and then please tell me what you think of this book!

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