It all begins with a vacuum cleaner and a poetry book. Wondering how the two are connected? Ulysses. After a nasty, near-death encounter with a Ulysses 2000X super-suction multi-terrain cleaner, a squirrel is born anew as Ulysses the superhero, a poetry-penning, sentient friend to his rescuer, natural-born cynic, Flora Belle Buckman. And that is just the beginning… add the temporarily sightless William Spiver (blinded by emotion after being banished by his mother), his great-aunt, Tootie Tickham (poet) and Flora’s separated parents (mother: writer of romance novels, father: accountant) and you begin to see the picture. Or maybe not.
Presenting a reading experience which at times borders on the Dali-esque, this latest offering from Kate DiCamillo, author of The Tale of Despereaux, will keep readers engrossed from its very first page. Part narrative, part graphic novel, the style is redolent of Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The vocabulary is challenging at times for a younger reader, but it doesn’t detract from the narrative.
Suitable for independent readers, this is definitely a book for anyone with a sense of humour. But there’s an important subtext, too. Things go wrong in life, but taking a line from the thirteenth-century poet, Rumi, ‘The grief armies assemble, but I’m not going with them’, this is a book which celebrates joy and laughter as the characters move away from grief and turn towards love. And also, as the author points out, it’s a book about seal blubber. A must-read.