Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

( 38 )

Overview

Holy unanticipated occurrences! A cynic meets an unlikely superhero in a genre-breaking new novel by master storyteller Kate DiCamillo.

It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can...

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Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

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Overview

Holy unanticipated occurrences! A cynic meets an unlikely superhero in a genre-breaking new novel by master storyteller Kate DiCamillo.

It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry — and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Kate DiCamillo comes a laugh-out-loud story filled with eccentric, endearing characters.

Winner of the 2014 Newbery Medal
Shortlisted for the 2014 Guardian Children's Fiction Prize
A 2013 Parents' Choice Award Winner for Fiction

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Flora Belle Buckman loves to devour comics, but not even her favorite "Terrible Things Can Happen to You!" can prepare her for the powers that the Ulysses Super-Suction Multi-Terrain 2000X can unleash. When an unlucky squirrel gets swallowed whole by this advanced vacuum cleaner, the poor critter gains superpowers, including the power of flight, the ability to write poetry, and a strength seldom seen among tree-dwelling creatures. Kate DiCamillo's illustrated Flora & Ulysses is a charming imaginative flight that also conceals a gentle message about kids surviving their parents' divorce. Editor's recommendation.

Publishers Weekly - Audio
01/27/2014
When a squirrel is sucked inside a neighbor’s vacuum cleaner, Flora Belle Buckman—who is still recovering from her parents’ divorce—puts down her favorite comic book (Terrible Things Can Happen to You!) and springs into action. But once she has saved the squirrel—whom she names Ulyssess—Flora soon discovers that the animal has some magical powers. Narrator Sands delivers a charming and lighthearted performance that listeners will love. Sands’s ability to create colorful, over-the-top characters is an ideal match for DiCamillo’s quirky novel, and the voices she produces here are pitch-perfect. This is a fun-filled audio experience. Ages 10–up. A Candlewick hardcover. (Sept)
School Library Journal - Audio
02/01/2014
Gr 3–7—Flora starts off her 10th summer by promising her mother that she'll spend more time reading real books, and less time poring over the pages of her favorite superhero comics. But neither she nor her mother could have predicted that her summer would be one long superhero adventure, starring none other than Flora and her new pet squirrel, Ulysses. Ulysses gains super-squirrel strength after being sucked into a vacuum cleaner, and he changes the Buckman family's lives, renewing a sense of hope and optimism in Flora. Fans of the title's print version (Candlewick, 2013) will likely be disappointed by its audio adaptation. The novel features a number of fun cartoons, and does not translate well without the accompanying artwork, which plays a significant role in telling the story. While reader Tara Sands makes a valid attempt to differentiate male and female characters, she does not quite pull it off. The men in the novel come off sounding hokey and exaggerated. While DiCamillo's work shines on paper, the excessive use of dialogue tags, and absence of corresponding artwork, make this novel a poor choice as a read aloud.—Jennifer Furuyama, Pendleton Public Library, OR
The New York Times Book Review - Elisabeth Egan
Unlike some of her fresh-as-paint fictional counterparts, Flora has gravitas. She is a self-proclaimed "natural-born cynic" with a misanthropic streak reminiscent of Harriet the Spy…In Flora and Ulysses, longtime [DiCamillo] fans will find a happy marriage of Mercy Watson's warmth and wackiness and Edward Tulane's gentle life lessons. In Flora, they will find a girl worth knowing, and one they will remember.
Publishers Weekly
Newbery Medalist DiCamillo and illustrator Campbell meld prose with comics sequences in a broad comedy tinged with sadness. Bitter about her parents’ divorce, Flora Buckman has withdrawn into her favorite comic book, The Amazing Incandesto! and memorized the advisories in its ongoing bonus feature, Terrible Things Can Happen to You! She puts those life-saving tips into action when a squirrel is swallowed whole by a neighbor’s new vacuum cleaner, the Ulysses Super-Suction Multi-Terrain 2000X. Flora resuscitates the squirrel, christens him after the vacuum, and witnesses a superhero-like transformation: Ulysses is now über-strong, can fly, and composes poetry. Despite supremely quirky characters and dialogue worthy of an SAT prep class, there’s real emotion at the heart of this story involving two kids who have been failed by the most important people in their lives: their parents. It’s into this profound vacuum that Ulysses really flies, demonstrating an unconditional love for his rescuer, trumped only perhaps by his love for food and a desire “to make the letters on the keyboard speak the truth of his heart.” Ages 10–up. Author’s agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties. Illustrator’s agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
Newbery-winner DiCamillo is a master storyteller not just because she creates characters who dance off the pages and plots, whether epic or small, that never fail to engage and delight readers. Her biggest strength is exposing the truths that open and heal the human heart. She believes in possibilities and forgiveness and teaches her audience that the salt of life can be cut with the right measure of love.
—Booklist (starred review)

Original, touching and oh-so-funny tale starring an endearingly implausible superhero and a not-so-cynical girl.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Despite supremely quirky characters and dialogue worthy of an SAT prep class, there’s real emotion at the heart of this story involving two kids who have been failed by the most important people in their lives: their parents.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Rife with marvelously rich vocabulary reminiscent of the early superhero era (e.g., "Holy unanticipated occurrences!") and amusing glimpses at the world from the point of view of Ulysses the supersquirrel, this book will appeal to a broad audience of sophisticated readers. There are plenty of action sequences, but the novel primarily dwells in the realm of sensitive, hopeful, and quietly philosophical literature.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

Eccentric characters, snappy prose and the fantastical plot give this delightful novel a giddy, over-the-top patina, but the core is big and hopeful, contemplative and bursting with heart. No small feat, even for a superhero like DiCamillo.
—Shelf Awareness

In "Flora and Ulysses," longtime fans will find a happy marriage of Mercy Watson's warmth and wackiness and Edward Tulane's gentle life lessons. In Flora, they will find a girl worth knowing, and one they will remember.
—The New York Times Book Review

Full of Ms. DiCamillo's dry, literate wit and bursting every so often into action-packed comic-strip sequences illustrated by K.G. Campbell... [a] funny, eccentric novel.
—The Wall Street Journal

[L]augh-out-loud funny, tender, difficult and hopeful all at once. ... Cynics beware, this book is meant for those open to joy, wonder, loyalty and friendship of all stripes.
—The Huffington Post

Kate DiCamillo's newest book ... is that rarest of all treasures, a truly inventive and appealing children's middle-grade novel.
—The Boston Globe

[A] fast-paced, funny tale. ... Like all of DiCamillo's books, Flora & Ulysses is filled with adventure, but also plenty of humor and soul. ... DiCamillo has seamlessly blended comic-book elements and a zany cast of characters into a thoroughly original, heartwarming tale.
—BookPage

This is a fun and clever tale of an unlikely hero uniting an even more unlikely cast of characters. Kate DiCamillo strikes again. Each character is well-drawn, the story is packed with fun references and asides. It's a perfect blend of poignancy and magic.
—Fall 2013 Parents' Choice Book Awards

DiCamillo does here what she does best, which is tell a deceptively simple story that elucidates big truths. ... And though the ideas are sophisticated, the storytelling is engaging enough to lure in a reader who might be put off by a doorstop of a novel. This slim volume also features illustrations by K.G. Campbell... [which] jell seamlessly with DiCamillo's prose.
—Austin American Statesman

Beautifully written... The accompanying illustrations and cartoons are enchanting, and the remarkable DiCamillo demonstrates she has storytelling power to spare.
—The Chicago Tribune

Though their adventures are wild and wacky, the heart of the story is about a girl adrift and how she finds her way home. Pencil illustrations and comic book panels by K.G. Campbell complement Kate DiCamillo's text perfectly. After reading Flora and Ulysses, you'll be asking when the next installment is due.
—NPR Books

Much like its furry hero, this swiftly paced tale is full of bold leaps and surprising turns. ... K.G. Campbell’s occasional drawings supplement the narrative and brilliantly interpret the characters, from the partially bald Ulysses to chain-smoking Mom. As with her previous big-hearted novels, DiCamillo proves once again that "astonishments are hidden inside the most mundane being," and gives us another fantastic story.
—The Washington Post

Beautifully written... The accompanying illustrations and cartoons are enchanting, and the remarkable DiCamillo demonstrates she has storytelling power to spare.
—The Chicago Tribune (syndicated from Tribune Newspapers)

Brilliantly written and graphically engaging, it’s filled with adventure, poetry, and compassion. Worth reading, and equally appealing for kids and adults.
—The Boston Globe, Best of 2013

School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Flora, obsessed with superhero comics, immediately recognizes and gives her wholehearted support to a squirrel that, after a near-fatal brush with a vacuum cleaner, develops the ability to fly and type poetry. The 10-year-old hides her new friend from the certain disapproval of her self-absorbed, romance-writer mother, but it is on the woman's typewriter that Ulysses pours out his creations. Like DiCamillo's The Magician's Elephant (Candlewick, 2009), this touching piece of magical realism unfolds with increasing urgency over a mere few days and brings its somewhat caricatured, old-fashioned characters together into what becomes a supportive community for all. Campbell's rounded and gentle soft-penciled illustrations, at times in the form of panel art furthering the action, wonderfully match and add to the sweetness of this oddball story. Rife with marvelously rich vocabulary reminiscent of the early superhero era (e.g., "Holy unanticipated occurrences!") and amusing glimpses at the world from the point of view of Ulysses the supersquirrel, this book will appeal to a broad audience of sophisticated readers. There are plenty of action sequences, but the novel primarily dwells in the realm of sensitive, hopeful, and quietly philosophical literature.—Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews
When a cynical comic-book fanatic discovers her own superhero, life becomes wonderfully supercharged. Despite the contract her mother made her sign to "turn her face away from the idiotic high jinks of comics," 10-year-old Flora avidly follows her favorite superhero's adventures. Flora's mother writes romance novels and seems more in love with her books than with her lonely ex-husband or equally lonely daughter. When a neighbor accidentally vacuums a squirrel into a Ulysses 2000X vacuum cleaner, Flora resuscitates him into a "changed squirrel," able to lift the 2000X with a single paw. Immediately assuming he's a superhero, Flora names the squirrel "Ulysses" and believes together they will "[shed] light into the darkest corners of the universe." Able to understand Flora, type, compose poetry and fly, the transformed Ulysses indeed exhibits superpowers, but he confronts his "arch-nemesis" when Flora's mother tries to terminate him, triggering a chain of events where Ulysses becomes a real superhero. The very witty text and droll, comic-book–style black-and-white illustrations perfectly relay the all-too-hilarious adventures of Flora, Ulysses and a cast of eccentric characters who learn to believe in the impossible and have "capacious" hearts. Original, touching and oh-so-funny tale starring an endearingly implausible superhero and a not-so-cynical girl. (Fantasy. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780449015131
  • Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/24/2013
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Sales rank: 819,565
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Kate DiCamillo is the author of many beloved books for young readers, including The Tale of Despereaux, which received a Newbery Medal; Because of Winn-Dixie, which received a Newbery Honor; The Tiger Rising, a National Book Award Finalist; The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, winner of a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award; The Magician’s Elephant; and the bestselling Mercy Watson series. Kate DiCamillo lives in Minneapolis.

Biography

Kate DiCamillo was born in Philadelphia, moved to Florida's warmer climate when she was five years old, and landed in Minneapolis in her 20s.

While working at a children's bookstore, DiCamillo wrote her first novel, Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). It was inspired by one of the worst winters in Minnesota, when she became homesick for Florida after overhearing a little girl with a southern accent. One thing led to another, and soon DiCamillo had created the voice of Opal Buloni, a resilient ten-year-old girl who has just moved to a small town in Florida with her father. Opal's mother abandoned the family when she was three years old, and her father has a hard time explaining why.

Thoug her father is busy and she has no friends, Opal's life takes a turn for the better when she adopts a fun-loving stray dog, Winn-Dixie (named after the supermarket where she found him, out in the parking lot). With Winn-Dixie as her guide, Opal makes friends with the eccentric people of her new town and even convinces her father to talk about her mother. Through Opal, readers are given a gift: a funny and heartrending story of how one girl's spirit can change her life and others'. Critics loved the book as much as readers, and in 2001, Because of Winn-Dixie was named a Newbery Honor Book.

DiCamillo's second novel, The Tiger Rising (2001), also deals with the importance of friendships, families, and making changes. Twelve-year-old Rob Horton and his father are dealing with grief, anger, and isolation after moving to Lister, Florida, six months after Rob's mother succumbs to cancer. Rob's father has a job at a motel (where they both also live), but it barely pays the bills. Struggling through the loss of his mother, Rob stifles his many confusing emotions as he battles bullies at his new school, worries about a rash on his legs, and copes with living in poverty.

In many ways, The Tiger Rising is a darker, more challenging story than Because of Winn-Dixie, but there is a similar light of deliverance in this beautiful novel: the healing power of friendship. Two meetings change Rob's life. First, he encounters a caged lion in the woods. Shortly thereafter he meets Sistine, who has recently moved to Lister after her parents' divorce. Sistine and Rob are polar opposites -- she stands up to the school bullies and lets out every bit of her anger at her parents' divorce and her relocation. Through Sistine, Rob recognizes himself in the caged lion, and the story of how the two children free the beast is one of the most engaging reads in contemporary young adult fiction. With the lion free, Rob is free to grieve the loss of his mother and move on with his bittersweet new life in Lister. A National Book Award finalist, The Tiger Rising is hard to put down as it overflows with raw, engaging emotion.

In 2003, DiCamillo's third novel, The Tale of Despereaux, was released to the delight of readers and critics alike. This odd but enthralling fairy tale also touches on some of the topics from her first two novels -- parental abandonment and finding the courage to be yourself. The hero, Despereaux Tilling, is a mouse who has always been different from the rest of his family, and to make matters worse, he has broken a serious rule: interacting with humans, particularly Princess Pea, who captures his heart. When Despereaux finds himself in trouble with the mouse community, he is saddened to learn that his father will not defend him. Characters in the tale are Princess Pea, whose mother died after seeing a rat in her soup; King Pea, who, in his grief, declares that no soup may be served anywhere in the kingdom; Miggery Sow, a servant girl who dreams of being a princess after being sold into servitude by her father after her mother dies; and Roscuro, a villainous rat with a curious soup obsession.

The story of how the characters' paths cross makes The Tale of Despereaux an adventurous read, reminiscent of Grimm's fairy tales. In the spirit of love and forgiveness, Despereaux changes everyone's life, including his own. As the unnamed, witty narrator of the novel tells us, "Every action, reader, no matter how small, has a consequence." Kate DiCamillo's limitless imagination and her talent for emotional storytelling earned her one of the most prestigious honors a children's author can receive -- in 2004, she was awarded the Newbery Medal.

Good To Know

DiCamillo wrote The Tale of Despereaux for a friend's son, who had asked her to write a story for him about a hero with large ears.

In our interview, DiCamillo shared some other fun facts with us: :

"I can't cook and I'm always on the lookout for a free meal."

"I love dogs and I'm an aunt to a very bad dog named Henry."

"My first job was at McDonald's. I was overjoyed when I got a nickel raise."

"I'm a pretty boring person. I like reading. I like eating dinner out with friends. I like walking Henry. And I like to laugh."

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    1. Hometown:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 25, 1964
    2. Place of Birth:
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, University of Florida at Gainesville, 1987

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 38 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 38 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 4, 2014

    Under all the squirrelly fun this is a book with a serious theme

    Under all the squirrelly fun this is a book with a serious theme: parental and spousal rejection. Flora Belle, whose parents are divorced, thinks that her mother loves her lamp made in the shape of a girl and named Mary Anne, more than she loves Flora Belle. When in a fit of lost temper the mother admits that without Flora Belle her life would be easier, the child is devastated and takes an opportunity to run away in order to save her squirrel friend. There is also a boy whose mother has rejected him because he has destroyed her new husband's car. The boy, William Spiver, then chooses to wear dark glasses that prevent him from seeing. He lives with a great-aunt and uncle who, though somewhat silly, have taken him in and love him.  In the end, the lamp is smashed, mother admits that she loves her Flora Belle more than anything, the parents get back together, and William Spiver breaks his dark glasses and knows that his great -aunt and also Flora Belle truly love him. They all love the squirrel who also loves them. The squirrel's antics and some adult silliness help to make the story bearable. In the end, of course, all is well , but this reader is wondering if children who have felt rejected by their parents would be helped by reading that Flora Belle's mother loved her after all and not an inanimate object, the lamp shaped like a girl. The other message is that we need to find love where we can if our families do not provide it.  However, there are abused and mistreated children in this world. Do they always find love and acceptance? Perhaps it is not wrong to hold out hope for them too. 
    This is by no means your ordinary funny animal story and should not be judged as such. 
    In the hands of a skilled adult who gives it to a child who needs it and follows up with love and support it may be exactly the right book to supply a need. 

    15 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2014

    Heart warming

    DiCamillo does it again with her tender characters, special bonds & a most unusual adventure. Not my favorite of her book but still a heart warming story!

    9 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 27, 2014

    I love Kate DiCamillo; I have read all of her books. This wasn't

    I love Kate DiCamillo; I have read all of her books. This wasn't my favorite read of hers but it was a tender, heart-warming, adventurous story as she consistantly writes. The book was written in a fun way with comics, illustrations and short chapters!

    8 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2014

    Sweet

    I love it .it is cute!!!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2013

    GREAT

    SENCON OF THE BEST BOOKS HE MADE

    7 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2014

    Love it ?

    Y will loveit.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2014

    Cant wait to read it

    My whole family is excited to read this awesome story!

    6 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2013

    G

    Oh ya

    6 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2013

    Depressing

    It was a okay book...but a lot of things were depressing. Flora was a boring character, and lots of things dragged on. The squirrels poetry and antics were they only thing that kept me interested. But the book was short and Flora was not a favorite character.

    4 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2014

    YES!

    It is so amazing. As George Buckman would say, "Holy bagumba!"

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 22, 2014

    Kids that like to laugh will be over the moon with this book. Fl

    Kids that like to laugh will be over the moon with this book. Flora rescues Ulysses (a squirrel) from a vacuum cleaner, gives him CPR, and takes him home. The experience of being vacuumed has changed Ulysses, however. He is now a superhero squirrel (or something). He can fly, write poetry, and vanquish mean cats. Flora is an odd girl, but her cynical personality is perfect for the story. The boy that lives next door is a temporarily blind philosopher and drives Flora crazy.

    I loved Ulysses poetry. I also loved the way we got his point of view sometimes. He was obsessed with eating. He would have grandiose thoughts and ambitions, and then it always came back to food.

    The illustrations are fantastic. They add to the personality of the book and are very entertaining. I especially liked the comic strip sections where Ulysses slipped into superhero mode.

    Flora and Ulysses is full of friendship, love, and laugh out loud moments. I loved it.

    Content: clean

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2014

    Must read

    Congrats on the newberry award

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2015

    If you want a reveiw from a reader just like you, i'd click here if i were you.

    This book is a great realistic fiction with action, drama, a flying squirrel and an orange dumdum. This book also portrays that comic books CAN be good to read sometimes and that dreams CAN come true.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2015

    A few hundred pages.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2014

    Plz answer

    How manny pages?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2014

    Really good

    I think you should get it

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  • Posted October 9, 2014

    A "cute" story -- great for young readers who like ima

    A "cute" story -- great for young readers who like imaginative stories.

    Although "Flora and Ulysses" is outwardly charming, for some reason I just didn't "connect" with this book. I think I was just looking for more "meat and bones" to the story than what I received from it... especially coming from a talented storyteller such as Kate DiCamillo. However, the story boldly steps into more of a comic book style of writing (which is definitely different and adventurous for an author to attempt -- making an interesting outcome).

    There were a few things I either disliked or think that some parents may disapprove of... Flora Belle, the main character, calls herself a cynic (as does her mom) and thinks that because she is a cynic, she doesn't have to care about her actions when she doesn't feel like it. Flora Belle doesn't maintain a great relationship with her mom, and doesn't always get to see her dad because of the parents' divorce. Also, Flora Belle's mother smokes cigarettes -- something many parents I know would see as a con in a book.

    In all, the book is a sugar-coated tale of a superhero squirrel and his human cynic friend. Nicely written, but doesn't fit my personal taste.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2014

    AWESOME SQUIRELS

    Funny

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2014

    Soo fun

    Best book ever

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2014

    I think that anybody who loves the book Winn-Dixie, would love t

    I think that anybody who loves the book Winn-Dixie, would love this book, too.  I give this story 4 stars because it is funny, has a lot of characters and i love Flora and Ulysses.  Maleena

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