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An update from book club!

Today in Stone Soup Book Club, we discussed Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, a wonderful, whimsical novel about a girl who befriends a squirrel with superpowers! The story is mostly written in prose, and interspersed with illustrated comic sections and poems. When the novel starts out, Flora Belle Buckman describes herself as a ‘cynic,’ meaning someone who is pessimistic and reluctant to hope, probably because her parents have recently divorced and she doesn’t get along very well with her mother. But things change when she sees, in the neighbor’s backyard, a squirrel getting accidentally sucked up in a vacuum cleaner! Flora rushes over to do some squirrel-CPR, and when the squirrel (whom they name Ulysses) wakes up, it turns out he now has superpowers, including super-strength, flight, and the ability to write poetry! 

Unfortunately, Flora’s mom is not okay with having a squirrel living in the house, and wants to get rid of Ulysses, so Flora has to team up with her gentle father, Mr. Buckman, her poetry-loving next door neighbor, Tootie, Tootie’s temporarily-blind great-nephew William Spiver, and Mr. Buckman’s kind neighbor Dr. Meescham, to rescue Ulysses, so that he can continue helping them. Over the course of the story, Ulysses’ loving friendship makes Flora more hopeful and helps her re-connect with her mom and dad.

Everybody who came really enjoyed the book. We started out our discussion by talking about what superpowers we would have if we could choose; answers including turning into animals, talking to animals, flying, etc. Then we really got into discussing the book. We shared our favorite characters and scenes, and discussed how Flora changed over the course of the story. We discussed our theories as to why William Spiver pretends to be temporarily blind; why Flora is jealous of her mother’s prized shepherdess lamp; whether or not Dr. Meescham’s home country of Blundermeecen is supposed to be a real place; what makes somebody a real superhero; what it means to be cynical; and Ulysses’ most awesome moments. 

After our discussion, it was time for creative writing. We had two prompts: to write a poem from the point of view of our favorite squirrel-poet Ulysses; or to write a scene from the point of view of a different kind of animal, taking into account how that kind of animal would perceive the world. People tried each of the prompts, and it was lovely to see the poems and stories that they wrote!

Thank you so much to everyone who has joined Stone Soup book club over the past year. It has been an absolute pleasure getting to read, write, and talk about books together! Unfortunately, book club is going on a hiatus for now, but stay tuned for other Stone Soup classes such as the Writers Workshop, and we’ll reach out if book club starts up again in the future. In the meantime, happy reading and writing! 

Best wishes,

Maya Mahony

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