floraandulyssesHoly Bagumba!

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo is delightful!  I was smitten with this charming, smart middle grade novel from page one.  DiCamillo (Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn Dixie) is joined by illustrator K.G. Campbell to bring to life Flora Belle Buckman, a natural-born cynic in the body of a tween girl.  Armed with an extensive vocabulary, an abundance of comic book knowledge, and an eye for the truth, Flora makes for a wonderful heroine.

But she wouldn’t see herself as the hero of this tale.  The hero (I mean, superhero) is Ulysses, a squirrel who acquires the abilities to write poetry and fly after being sucked up by Flora’s neighbor Tootie Tickman’s  Ulysses Super-Suction, Mult-Terrain 2000X vacuum.  The story that follows includes a terrifying cat, temporary blindness, a shepherdess lamp, an unexpected villain, a giant doughnut, and much more.

While this comic book/chapter book hybrid is funny and silly, it is also very sweet.  The examination of changing mother-daughter dynamics as girls grow up is so beautifully executed and subtle that readers may not notice it until they’ve finished reading.  Flora and Ulysses is a great read for loyal readers of Kate DiCamillo and fans of Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead and Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman (or, really, anyone!)

backyard bird feedersThat wintry landscape means difficult times for our feathered friends. While some birds fly south for the winter, many common Iowa backyard birds stay – chickadees, song sparrows, cardinals, juncos – and stick it out through the brutal cold and snow. You can give them a helping hand – and in the process get a chance to enjoy watching them up close – with just a few simple steps.

Two of the most important things to provide are shelter and water. Shelter for the birds can be a brush pile, or vines or perennials that you don’t cut down in the fall. Providing water during bird feeder bookfreezing temperatures can be more difficult; heaters for bird baths available, or simply keeping some water open by hand will also do the trick.

Finally, you can feed the birds. Placing the feeders so that you can watch the birds from inside your house can provide hours of entertainment as they brighten our winter landscape. For information on what food suits which birds, check out some of these titles from the library:

The Backyard Bird Feeders Bible by Sally Roth

outwitting squirrelsCreating a Bird-friendly Backyard Habitat by Scott Edwards

Experts Guide to Backyard Birdfeeding by Bill Adler

The Bird Feeder Book by Donald Stokes

And, just because where there’s a bird feeder, there’s bound to be squirrels, Outwitting Squirrels by Bill Adler