I love Kate Dicamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie with all my heart. It’s sweetly charming, is told through engaging storytelling sure to capture young readers, and raises many thought provoking questions for adults to discuss with kids. Obviously it’s no doubt why it’s long been a classroom favorite read along for teachers. Now that makes what I’m about to say all the more shocking, but I think I just might recommend Flora & Ulysses over it. I know what the lifelong middle grade lovers out there are thinking, “What?!?, Winn-Dixie is practically a grade school staple”, let me just say I 100% agree, I would even go so far as to say you can’t call yourself a teacher until you’ve read it to your class (I kid, but seriously), however I think Flora & Ulysses just has all these winning elements plus a little extra pizzaz, a punch sure to put smiles on even reluctant readers faces. Without further ado, the four reasons I think Flora & Ulysses deserves a spot in your classroom.
1. This book just about gave me a side split from laughing. It’s definitely not a traditional grade school humor so kids, especially boys, might be a little put off by it at first. In three words though I would describe it as zany, wordy, and quirky (as comedy surrounding a superhero squirrel tends to be). Especially as the book went on and I found myself more and more attached to these lovable, one in a million characters, did I start to really laugh at their hilarious antics and mannerisms.
2. This is a kids book through and through, will appeal to readers all the way trough junior high I’d say. Everything sbout it seems orchestrated specifically to pull kids into the story and never let them go. The amazing illustrator K.G. Campbell’s comic strips are perfectly placed and effortlessly flow into the story, literally making the characters and situations jump off the page.
3. Kate Dicamillo can WRITE, I always knew it but she takes it to a whole new level with this book. The way not a single word is wasted, and the way they specifically pack a punch is amazing. Dicamillo’s writing, more than anything else, paints a picture of her lovely characters. Her protagonists are probably the only middle grade characters I’ve ever read who sound like they could get a perfect score on the SAT’s and because of that by the end of the books I could practically imagine their funny little voices strucuring sentences chalk full of words I will likely never again hear in my life (thank God).
4. Finally, the characters. The line between sweetly charming and annoyingly precocious is a faint, and tough, line to straddle, but do I think Kate successfully did it? YES. They tell a heartfelt, universal story that will have you going awww… and rooting for them to get the happy ending they deserve. Really, who can bring together a cast of a cynical heroine, a temporaily, traumatically blind boy, poetry writing squirrel, bumbling father, well meaning neighbor, a disconnected mother, and a Dr. from Blundermeecen other than the amzing Kate Dicamillo?
My rating: read it!