Flora and Ulysses

Kate DiCamillo's young-person's novel Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures is a fun frolic, illustrated by K. G. Campbell. Great poetry? Maybe not, though bits of the language echo. Great humor? Maybe not, though there are chuckles and snorts enough. Great surrealism? Maybe not, though a pseudo-superhero squirrel named "Ulysses" comes close. Most noteworthy? Maybe a fragment of Rainer Maria Rilke as quoted in Chapter 25:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

That's from a translation by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy of Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God. And in Chapter 41, a lovely way to say farewell and a representative sample of DiCamillo's style:

"When I was a girl in Blundermeecen," Dr. Meescham had said to Flora when they were all leaving apartment 267, "we wondered always if we would see each other again. Each day was uncertain. So, to say good-bye to someone was uncertain, too. Would you see them again? Who could say? Blundermeecen was a place of dark secrets, unmarked graves, terrible curses. Trolls were everywhere! So we said good-bye to each other the best way we could. We said: I promise to always turn back toward you.

"I say those words to you now, Flora Belle. I promise to always turn back toward you. And now you must say them to me."

"I promise to always turn back toward you," Flora had said.

She whispered the words again, now, to the squirrel. "I promise to always turn back toward you."

She put a finger on Ulysses's chest. His tiny heart was beating out a message that felt like I promise, I promise, I promise.

Hearts were the strangest things.

"Pop?" said Flora.

"Yes," said her father.

"Can I feel your heart?"


Somehow, though it's not too similar, Flora & Ulysses brings to mind Randall Jarrell's The Bat-Poet. Perhaps it's time to re-read that lovely little book!

^z - 2017-10-18