Discussion Guide: Flora & Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo

Discussion Guide: Flora & Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo

  1. When we first encounter Flora, she is quirky and cynical by nature. Do we believe this? 

(not entirely. Quirky, yes, like her parents. Cynical perhaps because her heart aches.)

  1. What is the first evidence that Ulysses is special?

(he lifts the vacuum cleaner over his head with one paw)

  1. Frequently Flora discovers a word that has such impact that she must repeat it aloud. What does this tell us about her?

(Flora is a bit awkward but also very detail oriented. She’s very smart but also very much a person with the same needs as everyone else)

  1. “Do not hope; instead observe” is repeated in the book. Is this quote meant to be scientific?

(yes, but also more than that. It is meant to be philosophical as well. Flora wants to guard her heart from more pain by not getting her hopes up.)

  1. Dr. Meescham has a painting of a squid apparently eating a boat filled with people. This is upsetting to Flora. Dr. Meescham explains, “Loneliness makes us do terrible things.” How does this fit in with the story?

(it helps Flora and us readers to be more forgiving and understanding of people who say or do desperate things because of their loneliness.)

  1. Flora recalls that in her comic books Dolores (a parakeet)  eventually becomes homesick for her own kind. Who do we believe this applies to?

(we believe it applies to Ulysses needing to be with other squirrels, but surprisingly, Flora feel it applies to her. 

  1. “The universe is expanding” means different things to different people. Explain the meaning presented in this book

(for Flora it is a sad expression of her feelings of isolation. For Ulysses, it is a joyfilled expression of possibility)

  1. Is Blundermeecen a real place?

(We don’t know but we suspect that it does not exist)

  1. In one of the final scenes, Flora’s mother arrives to be reunited with her baby. Who does she mean?

(Flora assumes she means Mary Ann, the lamp, but she means Flora.)

  1. Ulysses writes a final poem to Flora. What does he share in it?

(Ulysses shares that Flora is everything in this ever-expanding universe)

Vocabulary list 

Anticlimactic – causing disappointment at the end of an exciting or impressive series of events.

Appellation – a name or title

Arch-nemesis – a long-standing rival

Capacious – having a lot of space inside; roomy

Causation – the action of causing something

Cogitation – the action of thinking deeply about something

Cryptic – having a meaning that is mysterious

Cynic – a person who believes that people are motivated purely by self-interest rather than acting for honorable or unselfish reasons

Disdain – consider to be unworthy of one’s consideration

Fraught – causing or affected by anxiety or stress

Heimlich Maneuver – rescue treatment for choking victims

Heinous – very bad or evil

Incandescent – full of strong emotion; passionate

Indomitable – impossible to subdue or defeat

Inordinately – excessive

Irrevocable – not able to be changed, reversed, or recovered; final

Malfeasance – wrongdoing, especially by a public official

Mundane – lacking interest or excitement; dull

Obfuscation – the action of making something obscure, unclear, or unintelligible

Obliged – be indebted or grateful

Positing – assume as a fact; put forward as a basis of argument

Preternaturally – something that seems oddly abnormal and out of sync with everything else

Queried – asked or inquired

Sepulchral – gloomy; dismal

Stout – somewhat fat

Surreptitious – kept secret, especially because it would not be approved of

Unremitting -never relaxing or slackening; incessant 

Vanquished – defeat thoroughly

Vehemently – in a forceful, passionate, or intense manner; with great feeling

Wields – hold and use (a weapon or tool)