Flora Bell is a lonely little girl whose parents are divorced. One day she sees her neighbor accidentally suck up a squirrel in a vacuum cleaner. At first they think that the squirrel is dead, but quick-thinking Flora administers CPR on the squirrel and it revives. Somehow the trip through the vacuum alters something in the squirrel's head, and it gains special powers. It (Ulysses) can suddenly understand the humans, it has super strength, it can type, it can fly, but most of all, it loves Flora. Flora loves Ulysses, too, but her mother does not, and wants to do away with the creature. In Flora's attempts to save Ulysses, she meets a new friends, helps her father laugh for the first time in a long time, and ultimately helps her mother remember that Flora is the most important thing in her life.
This is a cute little book. Flora Ulysses escapades are funny and the relationships between Flora, her father, and her new friend, William, are sweet. I am not sure I would have awarded it the Newbery Medal, but I like that fact that it is very child appropriate, even though it does deal with some complicated family relationships. This is DiCamillo's third Newbery winner. All three are about children who bond with animals and the animals help them with their relationships. I like Because of Winn Dixie best, then The Tale of Despereaux, and this one takes third. Still, it is will make a good read aloud, or kids will enjoy reading it themselves. (231 p)