The cover of Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo had been haunting me at the library. There were four or five copies of the Newberry winner with all types of stickers on the cover, and a few facing out on the shelf. I thought the illustrations were lovely in an oddball sort of way, but the first time I flipped through it I noticed it was part story, part comic book.
Eh. Comics. I read enough of them to the kids to know it's not my preferred style. I set it back down and we were on our way. I think I did this three times in three weeks before I just tossed it in my bag to see what would come of it.
When I started it, I couldn't believe how hilarious DiCamillo's characters were, and I realized, oh yeah, I have one of her other well-known books on my shelf, that I read when I was a kid, Because of Winn-Dixie. She also wrote the acclaimed Tale of Despereaux, which I had planned on reading to the kids this summer. Well, after the first 30 pages or so, that went lickety-split because of the 1-3 page chapters, I was hooked.
This story has a random plot-line and a rag-tag bunch of characters. First, a superhero squirrel who was sucked into a vacuum and lived to tell (write) about the tale in poetic form, a boy who became blind by trauma (maybe, maybe not), and Flora, the young cynic whose parents are separating. Kate DiCamillo marries laughter, wonder, observation, preparedness, comic boxes, and quirky humor into a great book. I'm not sure how DiCamillo was able to take this lunchroom soup mix and write about divorce, hope, friendship, and love, but she did. Your kids will enjoy it, but you will, too.