2014 Newbery Award Winner: Flora & Ulysses, The Illuminated Adventures
The Power of Names. Incandesto means glowing from the inside or shedding light, an apt name for a superhero who does good for others. Ulysses, the squirrel, is named after the vacuum that sucked him up in the Tickham’s yard. But, of course, Ulysses, is also the name of the hero from Homer’s tale. Flora is the name of our main character and also the Greek goddess of plants and flowers. Her middle name, Belle, means beauty. Have students consider the power of names in this book and what the characters’ names may represent about their personalities. Also discuss with students why DiCamillo may have chosen the name Ulysses instead of Odysseus. Why Roman and not Greek mythology? Support students to notice how other authors name their characters and what their names may represent. Consider using the Harry Potter series for this exploration as many of the characters names have cultural significance and Latin or Greek origins.
Illuminated Adventures. To illuminate means to make something brighter, more clear or more enlightened with knowledge. K. G. Campbell’s comic-book style of illustration illuminates DiCamillo’s narrative by shedding more light on the superhero powers within Ulysses. Have students either illuminate a story that they have previously written or have them generate a new comic using paper or any of the online comic tools listed in Online Resources.
Author’s Craft: Word Choice. Throughout the novel, DiCamillo is highly selective in her word choice exposing readers to words such as “capacious”, “incandesto”, and “malfeasance”. Draw students attention to these deliberate choices DiCamillo has made as part of her writing style and craft. Compare and contrast her word choice across novels by choosing excerpts from the beginnings of her past award winners or support students to read the first chapter across books. Support students to notice how and consider why she makes deliberate word choices to expand readers’ vocabulary.
The John Newbery Award and the National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature. Discuss the fact that Flora & Ulysses is the 2014 Newbery Award winner. Research with students the significance of this award and discuss past winners that they may be familiar with. Have students construct a list of qualities of the book that they believe led to the novel being chosen as the award winner. In addition, share with students that the author, Kate DiCamillo, has been chosen as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Read DiCamillo’s thoughts on this honor and discuss with students the roles DiCamillo may play under this new title.
Kate DiCamillo’s Author Talk About Flora & Ulysses
Newberry Award Criteria
YouTube Book Trailer for Flora & Ulysses
Read-Write-Think’s Create Your Own Comic Site
Pixton Comic Site
Bitstrips Comic Site
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story”
Campbell, K. G (2012). Lester’s dreadful sweaters. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press.
DiCamillo, K. (2003). The tale of desperaux. New York, NY: Candlewick Press.
DiCamillo, K. (2000). Because of winn-dixie. New York, NY: Candlewick Press.
About Katie Cunningham
Katie is a Professor of Literacy and English Education at Manhattanville College. There she is also the Director of the Advanced Certificate Program in Social and Emotional Learning and Whole Child Education. Her work focuses on children’s literature, joyful literacy methods, and literacy leadership. Katie is the author of Story: Still the Heart of Literacy Learning and co-author of Literacy Leadership in Changing Schools. Her book Start with Joy: Designing Literacy Learning for Student Happiness will be released September 2019. She is passionate about the power of stories to transform lives.
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