Thursday, May 15, 2014

Shelf Life [kids]

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, 240 pages.   
@ SPL:  J FIC DiCam

It all began when a live squirrel was accidently sucked into Mrs. Tickham’s super-suction vacuum cleaner.

Ten-year-old Flora Belle Buckingham, a neighbour, witnessed it. She ran to the squirrel’s aid and revived it.  The little creature recovered, but it soon became apparent that some extraordinary changes had taken place.  The squirrel could now talk, read and write poetry!  Moreover, it also now possessed super strength. It could leap over tall buildings with a single bound, and it could fly.  

Flora, a comic book fan, couldn’t help comparing the little squirrel to some of her favourite superheroes.  She named it “Ulysses”.

The two became wonderful, although unlikely, friends in this amusing, quirky story of an extraordinary squirrel and a cynical little girl whose parents had recently divorced.

What is meant by the word “illuminated” in the story’s title?  The book is semi-graphic, using a comic-book style (which is appropriate here because of Flora’s interest in comic books).

Author Kate DiCamillo is the winner of the prestigious Newbery Award for 2014, and her touching tale of Flora, Ulysses and their adventures together will charm its way into the hearts of readers.

** Recommended for ages 8 to 11 years.

The Mystery of Wickworth Manor by Elen Caldecott, 198 pages.
@ SPL:  J FIC Calde

A second unlikely (but successful) friendship is formed in Elen Caldecott’s The Mystery of Wickworth Manor when two very different personalities, Paige and Curtis, team up to solve an intriguing mystery on a school trip.

Curtis is angry that he has had to change schools and leave his friends there. Now a student at Friar’s Street School, he’s bitter and resentful.  Keeping to himself and his books, he makes no effort to form new friendships. When he first encounters Paige on the school trip (that he never wanted to take in the first place), he thinks that she is one of the loudest and bossiest people he’s ever met.

Paige, on the other hand, is full of self confidence and knows everyone at the school. Her impression of Curtis is one of a snobby know-it-all. She’s excited about the school trip to the historic Wickworth Manor and expects to enjoy herself there.

At the Manor, Paige and Curtis become engrossed in solving a fascinating mystery when they discover a long-hidden portrait of a young black servant. Despite their preconceived ideas about each other and their clashing personalities, Curtis and Paige manage to work together to find the answers to some painful secrets that have been hidden for over two hundred years.

Surprisingly, Caldecott’s story takes place not in the United States but in Britain, where slavery also existed. The portrait found by Curtis and Paige was inspired by an actual painting entitled “A Negro Coachboy”.

** Recommended for ages 8 to 11 years.  

This review appeared in the Stratford Gazette. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

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