Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2014

The Reading Queen

I am so proud of how impressed Eloise was of herself on Friday.

She had the day off from school and, like she does most mornings, she woke up and immediately grabbed a book: “Ivy and Bean: What’s the Big Idea?” She read during breakfast and on the way to and from dropping her younger sister off at preschool (she even read while walking to the back hall to put on her coat). She took a break mid-morning but was right back at it when we drove south to Des Moines to visit Dad at work. At one point during the hour drive, Charlotte became frustrated because Eloise wouldn’t raise her head from her book to answer a question Charlotte had asked her at least three times. “Stop being a reading worm,” she shouted. (That’s Charlotte for “book worm.”)

We stopped in at Dad’s office, ate lunch, had a playdate with a friend and then headed home. While Charlotte and Flora nodded off, Eloise sat in the back absorbed in her book again and I enjoyed an hour of peace and quiet. Just as we were pulling into our neighborhood, Eloise held up her book so I could see it in the rearview mirror and gave me a beaming smile.

“I can’t believe I read a whole chapter book in one day!” she said.

That’s right, my KINDERGARTENER read 121 pages in one day. She’s reading at a level I didn’t reach until second or third grade!

I’d like to take a little credit for Eloise’s reading prowess, but I am absolutely BLOWN AWAY by what she’s learned in her kindergarten classroom this year.

In 1988, I attended half-day kindergarten, where I learned my ABCs, numbers, sharing and general classroom behavior. Today’s kindergarten curriculum bears little resemblance to that of my youth. Eloise and her classmates are reading, writing in full sentences, taking spelling tests and doing multiplication and division word problems. At church today, I could barely hold a group of 4- & 5-year-olds’ attention for five minutes, but Eloise’s kindergarten teacher, Angie Bonthuis, has somehow managed to give 20 students the rock-solid foundation on which the rest of their education will be built. In my opinion, Mrs. B is a master of her profession, deserving of a superhero’s cape and a Fortune 500 CEO’s salary.

As Eloise’s reading abilities skyrocket, my new challenge is finding beginner chapter books that have stories of substance and are written with originality and creativity. One of my favorite discoveries has been “Kelsey Green, Reading Queen,” written by Claudia Mills with illustrations by Rob Shepperson. The book is the first in what will become a series about the “Franklin School Friends,” including Kelsey and her best friends, Annika and Izzy.

Kelsey Green Cover

In this debut story, Kelsey takes center stage, and we come to learn just how much she loves to read. In fact, her classroom teacher would likely argue that Kelsey likes to read just a little too much, as she’s often caught with a piece of fiction hidden inside her textbook during math lessons. This is one of the many reasons I love Mills’ book so much; over the years, I had more than one book confiscated when I was found reading at an inappropriate time.

Kelsey’s obsession is only taken up a notch when the school principal, Mr. Boone, announces a school-wde reading challenge: if the students read two thousand books before April, he’ll shave off his beard. To top it off, the class that reads the most books will be awarded a pizza party and the students who read the most in each classroom will have their name engraved on a plaque.

Kelsey develops a cutthroat rivalry with her classmate Simon, a fellow bookworm, in pursuit of the top-reader honors. She becomes convinced that Simon is faking his reading totals and enlists her friends in her efforts to spy on him. On the other hand, the contest also inspires Kelsey to help a classmate who struggles with reading discover a book series he can enjoy (even if her motives are based on her desire to bolster the class’ total).

The book is rightly praised for the accuracy with which Mills has written about various school scenarios and everyday challenges third-graders encounter. And Kelsey’s reading list, which includes books such as “The Secret Garden” and “Sarah, Plain & Tall,” serves as a great syllabus for young readers like my Eloise.

What are your favorite early chapter books, both new and old?

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

A friend and high school classmate of mine runs a fantastic blog called PreachTeach, offering thoughts on family life from the perspective of a woman of faith and a former teacher. This week, the PreachTeach, Erica Douglas, offered up an amazing picture book recommendation for Black History Month: “Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story of the Underground Railroad.”

Henry's Freedom Box Cover

After reading Erica’s words of praise for Ellen Levine’s educational but captivating book, I jumped online and reserved a copy of the book at the Ames Public Library.

Her recommendation was well-timed, especially considering how tongue-tied I found myself trying to explain Martin Luther King Jr. Day to my 5- and 4-year-olds last month.

I am grateful my girls have grown up in an environment in which they consider differences in skin color no more worthy of comment than differences in eye color. Although I recognized that there are places in the world ­—in this country, for that matter — where racial inequality and discrimination still exist, my children have yet to be exposed to the idea that anyone could be treated with unkindness simply because he or she was born with skin any shade but white.

Martin Luther King Jr.In fact, our discussion about Martin Luther King Jr. only came about because Eloise, my kindergartener, wanted to know why she had school on January 20th, while her younger sister Charlotte’s preschool did not.

“Well, today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and some schools and business close to celebrate it as a holiday,” I said. “I’m sure you’ve been talking about Martin Luther King Jr. in school, haven’t you?”

Apparently they had not (although you can’t always trust a kindergartener’s report on what they’ve been up to at school).

I have to admit, I was apprehensive about delving into the topics of civil rights and slavery. First, I have neither the talents of a teacher nor the adequate mastery of the history to feel qualified to do it justice. Second, I was uncomfortable with the idea of telling my daughters that people once thought that those with dark skin were not considered a white person’s equal.

I honestly think Eloise and Charlotte have never given skin color a passing thought. So why introduce the idea? Would it cause them to observe a difference (if only visual) that they had never considered before? It was the same thought process I went through when debating whether to take the girls to Monsters Inc. We had never had bedtime fears, especially not about monsters under the bed or in the closet. Would watching the movie cause them to wonder if there are monsters lurking a night?

As my mind turned circles with Eloise waiting patiently for an explanation, I came to two conclusions: 1.) I MAJORLY overthink things, 2.) There’s no ignoring history.

As much as I’d like my children to live forever in their bubble that’s void of any ignorant discrimination, I know that someday, likely much sooner than I can imagine, they’ll hear someone being made fun of for how they look, how they talk, how they love, how they adapt to learn or what they need to physically navigate the world.

If they can be taught the history of racial inequality in our country, of genocide in many other parts of the world, and they can understand the injustice and horror of slavery, then they will be better armed to recognize the existence of discrimination and inequality in the world around them.

As the political theorist and Irish statesman Edmund Burke is credited with saying:

“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

It is my hope that my children will be taught an adequate amount of American and world history over the course of their formal education, including units on slavery and civil rights. But a parent cannot rely on schools alone to teach our children about humanity’s past mistakes and to teach them what tolerance and equality mean in today’s world.

My girls need to hear me say that it’s wrong to treat people unfairly because they differ from us in some way, be it how they look or act or what they believe or don’t believe about God and what He teaches. They need to hear me say that we need to respect others’ differences, even if we don’t understand them. They need to see me show respect to those who are different than me and show compassion for those who experience greater struggles or disadvantages than I do.

So how do we teach children about slavery and inequality without making the world seem like a bad and scary place? I’m not sure. But reading “Henry’s Freedom Box” together was a great place to start.

Author Ellen Levine accomplished a remarkable feat with this picture book. It tells the true story of Henry Brown, a slave who was first sold and separated from his family at age 13 and later lost his own wife and three children when they were sold in a slave market. Desperate for freedom and ownership over his own life, Henry mailed himself to freedom, crunched into a 3’x2’x2.5’ crate bound for Philadelphia, “a place where there are no slaves!”

As Erica put it on PreachTeach, “the story expresses the ugliness of slavery so simply to children.” Levine opens her story in such a way that children are quickly able to comprehend the injustice of the life of a slave:

Henry Brown

 “Henry Brown wasn’t sure how old he was. Henry was a slave. And slaves weren’t allowed to know their birthdays.”

No birthday?! I think the shock of that alone grabbed Eloise attention and held it the whole book through.

I, however, was moved to tears by this image:

Henry Brown and Mom

Henry is held on his mother’s lap and wrapped in her arms just the way I sit with my children. While she holds him, she says:

“Do you see those leaves blowing in the wind? They are torn from the trees like slave children are form from their families.”

These words were so moving; I was curious if it was, indeed, something Henry’s mother had spoken to him as a youth. The narrative he so passionately composed in 1816 (available in full here) reveal the pain of this memory in full detail:

At an early age, my mother would take me on her knee, and pointing to the forest trees adjacent, now being stripped of their thick foliage by autumnal winds, would say to me, “my son, as yonder leaves are stripped from off the trees of the forest, so are the children of slaves swept away from them by the hands of cruel tyrants;” and her voice would tremble, and she would seem almost chocked with her deep emotions, while the big tears would find their way down her saddened cheeks, as she fondly pressed me to her heaving bosom, as if to save me from so dreaded a calamity. I was young then, but I well recollect the sadness of her countenance, and the mournfulness of her words, and they made a deep impression upon my youthful mind. Mothers of the North, as you gaze upon the free forms of your idolized little ones, as they playfully and confidently move around you, O if you knew that the lapse of a few years would infallibly remove them from your affectionate care, not to be laid in the silent grave, “where the wicked cease from troubling,” but to be the sport of cruel men, and the victims of barbarous tyrants, who would snatch them from your side, as the robber seizes upon the bag of gold in the traveller’s hand; O, would not your life then be rendered a miserable one indeed? Who can trace the workings of a slave mother’s soul, as she counts over the hours, the departure of which, she almost knows, will rob her of her darling children, and consign them to a fate more horrible than death’s cold embrace! O, who can hear of these cruel deprivations, and not be aroused to action in the slave’s behalf?

These words encapsulate every mother’s greatest fear – that one’s child could be taken from her forever. For Henry’s mother, this fear was a guaranteed eventuality, and that fear was realized when her master died and his slaves were divided amongst his four sons.

Henry was sent to work at one of the sons’ tobacco factory where, “if you made a mistake, the boss would beat you.” Artist Kadir Nelson breathtaking beautiful images capture the not-so-beautiful parts of Henry’s life and the lives of his fellow slaves. You see the dejection in his eyes and posture. You see the white man glaring at him on the street. You see the panic in Henry’s face when he learns his wife and children have been sold. You see the fear in his son’s face as he’s carted away.

Henry's Sadness

But you also see the determination in Henry’s face and the steel in his back when he decides to risk death and mail himself to freedom. And you see his long-awaited happiness when he finally escapes the confines of that box.

Henry's Freedom

Levine and Nelson have elegantly communicated the sad realities of slavery but have done so in captivating story-telling form. Young readers are impressed by Henry’s daring escape and are particularly fascinated by the cut-away images revealing Henry hidden within his cramped box.

Henry In the Box

The book contains just the right amount of biographical and historical information to be educational but does not overwhelm the reader with heavy amounts of facts that could be beyond their understanding. However, the author’s note on the closing page offers incredibly well-summarized overviews of slavery, the Underground Railroad and more specific details of Henry Brown’s journey.

Thank you to Erica and TeachPreach for giving me this tool to open my daughters’ eyes to an important part of all Americans’ history.

Read Full Post »

I suspect that Valentine’s Day, with all its pink and hearts, glitter and love, can be a bit frilly at times for some school-aged boys. And I’ll take a stab in the dark and say I don’t think my friend with three sons is checking out “Pinkalicious: Pink of Hearts” on her trip to the library this week.

For those looking for less gooey Valentine’s Day reading material, I offer you “Zombie in Love,” written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Scott Campbell. Keeping with my previous post about Valentine’s Day books, this one avoids actual mention of the holiday, and it’s been a frequently-requested, year-round staple on our bookshelf since my sister, Lindsay, gave it to one of the girls last February.

Zombie in Love Cover

Mortimer is a zombie who, aside from the company of his zombie dog and plentiful parasites, is quite lonely and hoping to find the love of his life in time for the Cupid’s Ball. DiPucchio and Campbell offer a playful interaction between text and picture, chronicling in word Mortimer’s earnest efforts to win the ladies over but revealing in image just how wrong he’s getting it.

Mortimer Screws Up

After enduring one failure after another, Mortimer places an add in the newspaper:

Personal Ad

Does Mortimer’s carefully crafted prose sound familiar? It brings to mind a little ditty about a letter in the personals you may have heard before:

If you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain

If you’re not into yoga, if you have half a brain

If you like making love at midnight in the dunes of the cape

Then I’m the love that you’ve looked for, write to me and escape. 

DiPucchio combines a great sense of humor with a witty talent for playing with words. The Cupid’s Ball attendees are “well… having a ball,” and Mildred (Mortimer’s long-sought love) is described as “drop-dead gorgeous.” The couple drives off into the moonlight in a “his and hearse,” dragging tin cans with labels like “cran-brainy juice,” “baked brains,” “Dead Bull” and “Mountain Tomb.”

His and Hearse

Artist Scott Campbell punches of the humor and oddity with his quirky illustrations. I particularly love Mortimer’s ever-present companions, a band of friendly worms who can be spotted playing catch, in the midst of a game of poker, working out and donning bowties. They remind me of Oscar the Grouch’s pet worm, Slimey.

Worms

My girls, on the other hand, love Campbell’s depiction of Mortimer’s winning smile:

Mortimer's Smile

And it’s apparent that Mortimer’s met his match when we see Mildred smile “like this:”

Mildred's Smile

Eloise and Charlotte take the opportunity to do their best zombie-smile impressions at this point in the book. Based on their affection for the book, it comes as no surprise that it was a finalist for the 2012 Children’s Choice Book Awards.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Children’s Choice Book Awards, it’s a joint project of the International Reading Association and the Children’s Book Council in which publishers submit hundred of titles to be evaluated and voted on by more than 10,000 children. Throughout the school year, five review teams, located in different regions of the United States, work with their local classroom teachers and school librarians to incorporate the books into classroom activities. The most popular titles, as voted on by children whose teachers are involved in the project, are chosen as the finalists. Winners are announced in the various age categories, and it’s a great place to look for great book inspiration, because kids sure know how to pick ‘em. (This year’s Children’s Choice winner is “Nighttime Ninja.”)

Read Full Post »

Olaf ValentinesFebruary has just barely arrived, but our Valentines were done a week ago, the girls’ Valentine’s Day candy and gifts have been purchased and my husband and I actually have a date night planned during the same week in which Valentine’s Day falls.

This has NEVER happened before.

Procrastination runs thick in my blood (I intended to post this yesterday), and I’m always leaving these things to the last minute, especially when it comes to Valentine’s Day, a holiday for which I have exactly one decoration and to which I give little thought.

Of course, my life is a little like a Looney Toons cartoon; I’m the animated character trying to block the water leaking from a dam – I get a few holes plugged but that only makes the water come out faster somewhere else; eventually, the whole dam will bust apart. Let’s just say you don’t want to look in my laundry room (or anybody’s closets, for that matter).

So, to further put off the washing, I’ll share my thoughts on Valentine’s Day books.

I’ll start by saying I generally detest holiday themed books. Christmas books are the exception because their “shelf life” is longer. You can pull them out at Thanksgiving and they last until the last remnants of Christmas are cleared away, sometimes well into January if you’re anything like me. But Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween books only seem appropriate for a couple of weeks in their respective months. “Where is Baby’s Valentine” just isn’t fun to read in August.

Which is why my very favorite “Valentine’s Day” books are those that don’t directly reference the holiday at all. Rather, they take the holiday’s themes of hearts, affection and love and create books that can be read all year long.

My Heart Is Like a Zoo Cover

Michael Hall’s “My Heart is Like A Zoo” is a perfect example. If you’ve been perusing Pinterest lately for Valentine’s craft ideas, you may have come across pins like these:

Pinterest Heart Animals

Comprised almost entirely of various sized hearts, these animals were inspired by the bold artwork of Hall’s book of similes that compare the characteristics of a menagerie of adorable animals with the diverse feelings one has in her heart. (Watch the book trailer and see the animals in motion here.)

For example, my heart is…
“happy as a herd of hippos drinking apple juice”

Hippos

OR is it “angry as a bear”?

Angry Bear

It would like to be “peaceful as a portly walrus lounging on a towel.”

Walrus

But that will have to wait until March.

For now, it’s as stressed as a housecat waiting for the vet. (I made that one up myself!)

Heart Cat

Hall’s vibrant colors and imaginative use of hearts earn him comparisons to Lois Ehlert and make this book visually fascinating for children and adults. Everyone has a favorite animal: Eloise loves the seal, Charlotte fancies the blue jay and I favor the elegant heron.

Jay Seal Heron

I also enjoy the book’s closing pages, depicting the tired “zookeeper” tucked into bed and overlooked by his animal friends. As a child, I had a similar habit of lining up all my stuffed animals, and the image brings back fond memories.

Zookeeper Sleeps

The back cover of the book offers a brief tutorial on Hall’s construction methods.

Heart Zoo Tutorial

This teacher‘s students used Hall’s book as the inspiration for their amazing arctic landscape.

Arctic Heart Landscape

Not only can Hall’s artwork inspire your Valentine’s crafting, but his images also offer a great lesson on shapes (the subject addressed last week at Charlotte’s preschool). Can your child identify and count all of the hearts used to make each animal? Have them trace the individual hearts with their fingers.

Christmas BooksAll three of my girls will be getting books alongside their candy for Valentine’s this year. (I take advantage of any excuse to gift them new reading material: Easter, Halloween, first and last days of school, and I may go a little overboard at Christmas — see photographic evidence at right). At the moment, both of the older girls are hooked on fairy books. Eloise is ready for Book 4 in the Never Girls series, and Charlotte and I will be reading “Rosy and the Secret Friend” from the Fairy Bell Sisters series.

Since Flora’s reading tastes have yet to be verbalized, I’m excited to give her Leslie Patricelli’s “Huggy Kissy,” another example of a book that’s great all year round. I’m also giving her a copy of “Lily’s Chocolate Heart,” putting aside my distaste for Valentine’s-themed books. Henkes is ALWAYS worth it, and I love how he’s captured a common habit children have of hoarding their holiday candy.

Huggy Kissy & Lily Covers

As I was researching Valentine’s Day books, I came across this fantastic article at Huffington Post with tons of great suggestions for books with themes of love without the traditional Valentine’s Day cheesiness. I can’t wait to check out “Olive and the Big Secret,” “Jonathan & Martha,” and “Bear in Love.”

Three Love Books

Read Full Post »

The Year of Flora

Some people have shoe habits, others purses. For me, it’s children’s books. I own enough picture books to constitute a small (ok, good-sized) library. In fact, as my 4 ½ and nearly-6 year olds’ interests have transitioned to chapter books, I’ve begun to worry that I’ll no longer be able to justify my excessive purchases of picture books.  Enter Flora, the crutch for my addiction.

Welcoming Flora

Flora arrived on September 13, 2013, our third daughter and (shhh….don’t tell the older girls) our best baby by far. Flora’s older sisters’ names were inspired by my love of children’s literature: Eloise Olivia, for the infamous resident of the Plaza Hotel and for Ian Falconer’s spunky pig (in 2008, Olivia’s purity had not yet been tainted by Nickelodeon’s branding); and Charlotte Faye, named for Wilbur’s wise friend, the wordsmith spider Charlotte A. Cavatica (and this selection was prior to the recent, horrific Charlotte name boom).

Eloise Olivia and Charlotte

Flora’s literary reference initially came in the form of her middle name: Alice. She was given this name both in honor of my late grandmother, Alice Burke, as well as my most beloved children’s book character, a great role-model for little girls, Miss Alice Rumphius. Barbara Cooney’s illustrations are works of art, and her missive to little girls is admirable: travel to far away places, spend time by the sea and make the world a better place (things we should ALL hope to accomplish in our lifetimes).

MissRumphiusBookCover

Flora-SpringsFlora’s first name, on the other hand, was inspired by our favorite wine: Trilogy, a blend of three red grape varietals made by the vineyard Flora Springs. Flora Komes and her husband, Jerry, established the vineyard in the ’70s, and the wine has carried the matriarch’s name ever since. Especially fascinating is how perfectly Komes lived up to her name. With its roots in Roman mythology, Flora was the goddess of flowers and springtime who enjoyed eternal youth. Komes helped raise a “ghost vineyard” from its ashes and died just shy of her 101st birthday in 2012. I could hope for nothing better than a long and happy life for my own Flora, and her birth also represented the completion of our “trilogy” of girls.

But in the year of our Flora’s birth, two outstanding “Flora” books were published, and each took the field of children’s literature by storm. This week, the American Library Association named Molly Idle’s “Flora and the Flamingo” as one of three Caldecott Honor Books. Meanwhile, Kate DiCamillo’s “Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures” was bestowed the coveted Newbery Medal. As The Horn Book pointed out, Flora is the new darling of children’s books.

Flora Book Covers

“Flora and the Flamingo” is a visually stunning, wordless, lift-the-flap book, depicting a stoic flamingo whose many balletic poses are mimicked by Flora, a playful young girl donning a pink swimsuit, black flippers and an irresistible yellow swim cap. The flamingo finds Flora’s game of copycat irksome at first:

Flamingo Squawk

…but amends are made.

Flamingo Apology

The flamingo patiently teaches its pupil to dance and soon the friends are dancing an elegant pas de deux that ends in a not-so-elegant but child-pleasing cannon ball.

Flamingo Cannonball

Idle’s attractive, mostly-pink palette is eye catching. I adore the font used for Flora’s name in the title. I enjoy the attitude and expression she’s captured in both the flamingo and Flora. I’m impressed with the simple but effective way in which the lifted flaps allow the narrative to progress.

That said, I’m not generally a fan of wordless books. I’m a bit too much of a control freak to feel comfortable with this open-ended storytelling format. I suppose these books give me a form of stage fright, leaving me paralyzed as to how to address each page. But my daughters’ fascination with “Flora and the Flamingo” has shown me how inviting the wordless format is to young children, especially the pre-reader.

Charlotte, my middle daughter, is particularly fond of “Flora and the Flamingo.” Like most middle children, she lives in the shadow of her older sibling, Eloise. With just 15 ½ months between them, Charlotte seems to believe she should be able to do everything Eloise can and, thus, found it discouraging when Eloise learned to read in kindergarten this year while she was left behind. I think wordless books, as well early readers composed in the graphic-novel style, are attractive to Charlotte because she’s able to “read” the book without the intimidation of traditional text she finds indecipherable.

Kate DiCamilloWhich leads me to “Flora & Ulysses” and the amazingly talented Kate DiCamillo. My girls were gifted a collection of DiCamillo books for Christmas, and I’ve become an obsessed fan overnight. (Did you know she lives in Minneapolis! For a girl who lives in Iowa, that’s CLOSE! I MUST track down a book signing!)

All of DiCamillo’s gems are new discoveries for me. Our family is just entering this amazing stage of early chapter books and young adult fiction. Sure, I have my favorites from my own childhood; I recently dug out a box containing “The Egypt Game,” “Bridge to Terabithia” and “Ballet Shoes,” among others. But DiCamillo came on the scene with “Because of Winn-Dixie” in 2000, just before I graduated high school.

WinnDixieCover

ImageEloise and I read that breakout novel together in the weeks after Christmas. Normally, I have a general rule against dog books. Despite my friends’ enthusiastic recommendations, I’ve never touched “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” and you can bet I’ve never cracked open “Marley and Me.” I already know firsthand the real-life, heartbreaking loss of a dog’s love and companionship; I don’t need fiction to rub it in. Besides, “Where the Red Fern Grows” was scarring enough.

And so, I approached “Winn-Dixie” with apprehension. We’d read a few chapters every couple of days, and I began to dread what I feared was the inevitable loss of that human-of-a-dog. When we weren’t reading together, Eloise appeared to be working her way through the book on her own. I have yet to fully grasp just how much she comprehends in higher-level chapter books, but she insisted she read the book in its entirety twice.

“I hope it ends well,” I told her with trepidation.

“Don’t worry, you’re really going to like it,” Eloise assured me. “It’s really happy.”

And so it was, and DiCamillo earned my highest praises. I can’t wait to delve into “The Tale of Despereaux,” for which DiCamillo earned the 2004 Newbery Medal, as well as “Tiger Rising,” “The Magician’s Elephant” and “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.” I’m certain her Bink and Gollie series will be fantastic for Charlotte’s proclivity for graphic novels, and the “Mercy Watson” series seems perfect for building confidence in early reading. Like I said, I’m OBSESSED, somewhere on the same level as my love of Dahl.

kates book covers

DiCamillo appears to have rolled all of her diverse talents and writing styles into one book with the publication of “Flora & Ulysses.” The novel stars 10-year-old Flora Belle Buckman, who resuscitates a squirrel who was run over by the neighbor’s super-vacuum, the Ulysses2000X. The squirrel returns to life with superpowers and a new name (Ulysses) inspired by his would-be assassin.

Flora and Ulysses

The book is the account of Flora and Ulysses’ adventures and is peppered with comic illustrations of their unfolding story (Flora is apparently a comic book fan). Reviews indicate that the novel deals with the larger life issues of loss, abandonment, acceptance of differences, loneliness, love, fears and complex relationships.

Flora and Ulysses Comic

We’re only a couple chapters in, but Charlotte likes to think she knows what’s going to happen because she’s peaked ahead at most of the illustrations. I’m excited to discover more about this fictional Flora, just as I can’t wait to see what my own little Flora becomes.

Read Full Post »