Read: Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, 2013, 9780763660406.
During the winter my wife was reading this to Boy #2 who said he did not like the story. She kept reading it and he pretended not to listen but would laugh along. I saw that DiCamillo is the poster girl for the summer reading program and figured I'd read the book.
Short version: squirrel vacuumed, squirrel has near-death-experience, squirrel now smart with super powers, lonely girl takes in squirrel, things happen.
Long version: Flora's neighbor gets a new super vacuum as a present. The vacuum goes nuts, zooms out the door, vacuums up a squirrel outside. Flora sees this from her upstairs window and rushes outside. The squirrel has half his hair sucked or abraded off and is unconscious. Flora provides squirrel CPR.
Turns out the squirrel is now smart, understands human speech, has super strength and can fly. Flora names him Ulysses. Ulysses communicates by typing. Ulysses is hungry. Ulysses is a squirrel so he is always hungry.
Flora is a bit lonely since her parents divorced and has devoted herself to cynicism. Her father is a sad man and her mother spends her day writing romance novels for work. Flora focuses her attention on The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Mr Incandesto comic books and nonfic like Terrible Things Can Happen To You! Flora figures Ulysses is like the Amazing Incandesto and will fight injustice. Flora reacts to events by trying to follow the advice of Terrible Things and another comic, The Criminal Element is Among Us.
Things happen. Flora's neighbor has a nephew, William Spiver, staying with her. Flora has weird flip-flops in her stomach when thinking of William Spiver. Flora's mother thinks Ulysses is a diseased rodent and wants to get rid of him. Flora's father is odd and seems depressed. Flora, her father and Ulysses go to a donut shop and a waitress freaks out about the squirrel.
Anyway. Plenty of laughs and no bubble gum ending. Things turn out okay with the conflict resolved but DiCamillo doesn't have Flora's parents reuniting and going on unicorn rides. She deals with Flora's and William's family troubles without didactic nonsense. DiCamillo also includes plenty of squirrel poetry and Rilke poetry.