Flora and Ulysses discussion guide

 

Author: Kate di Camillo

Suggested year group: 5

Synopsis and reasons for selection:

Flora is living in a world in which she doesn’t allow for the possibility of hope. Her parents are divorced, and comic books are her favourite pastime.  Flora feels alone and is prepared for the worst life has to offer when a random act of improbability connects her to Ulysses the squirrel, who becomes her superhero champion. As both Flora and Ulysses begin to vanquish evil, they also help each other to believe, hope, and find love. Part family story, part adventure, the narrative uses both prose and comic style illustrations. The story is poignant but also very funny. It addresses philosophical issues which will generate plenty of discussion for thoughtful readers.

Weblinks: katedicamillo.com The author’s official website

Before Reading:

Superheroes ask the children to collect images of superheroes from comics, books and films. What are the characteristics of a superhero? Ask the children to choose a favourite superhero and identify their: super power, weakness, arch enemy, sidekick, alter ego.

Comics make a collection of comics for the children to look at and read. These should be traditional comics e.g. The Beano, The Phoenix, Marvel etc. rather than magazines. Briefly discuss how stories are told in comic books and how language is used in distinctive ways.

During Reading:

Adventurous Vocabulary

There are lots of interesting words in Flora and Ulysees. Encourage the children to highlight new words and discuss what they think they mean before checking in dictionaries. You may also want to highlight some words for discussion and definition before the children read the relevant section. Here are some that are important to the story: malfeasance, arch enemy, vanquish, treachery, vengeance, euphemism.

Ulysses the Superhero

  • After reading chapter 8 discuss why Flora thinks Ulysses is a superhero.
  • Do you think he is a likely superhero?
  • What special powers do you think he will have?
  • The children might like to design their own animal superhero. Suggest they annotate their drawings with notes about the superpower • a special name • how that character hides his or her superhero self • friends • enemies

Philosophy

  • Chapter one is entitled ‘A natural born cynic’.  This refers to the heroine Flora.
  • A cynic is someone with a habitually negative outlook on life.  Does Flora have these traits?
  • In chapter 36 Flora meets Doctor Meescham and in chapter 39 she tells Flora that ‘Cynics are people who are afraid to believe.’ She then tells Flora about Pascal’s Wager.  What do you think?
  • Is Doctor Meescham right to say that there is nothing to lose by believing and hoping?

Friendship

  • Are Flora and William good friends?
  • What makes you think that?
  • In what ways do you think Flora and William are alike?
  • In what ways do you think they are different?

Point of view

Chapters 30 – 32 Ask the children to choose and imagine they are one of the characters in this scene. Re-read the chapters and ask them to think about how their chosen character would see this scene e.g.  in what ways would Flora and Rita see this scene differently?  Discuss this briefly to check understanding. On a large sheet of paper (A3) have them draw a giant eye with a large iris. And then draw the scene from their character’s point of view in the large iris.

Telling a story comic book style

  • In chapter 1 there is a picture of Flora looking out of the window. On her desk are two of her favourite comics The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto and Terrible Things Can Happen to You. 
  • How do these comics influence Flora’s life?
  • Which parts of the story are told in pictures?
  • Can you see a pattern?  
  • Choose your favourite scene from the book so far and create your own comic strip to tell the story. Tip: comic writers always ink in the words before they draw the speech bubbles around them. In that way they can be sure that the words fit neatly inside the bubble.

Feelings

  • How does this story make you feel?
  • Which do you think is the funniest part of the story?
  • Which is the saddest part?

 

After Reading

Happily ever after

Does the story have a happy ending? Is it happy for all the characters?

Character development 

  • All the characters change in some way. 
  • How do Flora, Ulysses, George Buckman, William Spiver change?
  • What are the important moments of change for each of them in the story?

 The next adventure

write a new episode for Flora and Ulysses. Use a mix of prose and comic strip to tell different parts of your story

 

If you liked this book you might like

Alex Millway Pigsticks and Harrold Great story told with comic strips

Gary Northfield Julius Zebra Humorous animal story told partly in comic strips.

Kate de Camillo The Tale of Despereaux  Try another animal adventure by the same author

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