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Hello, Universe Hardcover – March 14, 2017
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“A charming, intriguingly plotted novel by Erin Entrada Kelly. ...As she skillfully intercuts these four narratives, Kelly builds suspense and fosters empathy for her characters...As the connections deepen, it seems that this “big, mysterious, fickle” universe might harbor friendship and self-awareness for each.” (Washington Post)
“Kelly’s inventive story...is told from several supremely well-crafted perspectives. …The short chapters, compelling characters, and age-appropriate suspense will hook young readers immediately. …An original and resonant exploration of interconnectedness and friendship.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“Four middle-schoolers’ fates intertwine one summer in Kelly’s touching tale of friendship. . . . Chapters alternate between the four kids’ perspectives, infusing the story with their unique interests, backgrounds, beliefs, and doubts. …Readers will be instantly engrossed in this relatable neighborhood adventure and its eclectic cast.” (Booklist (starred review))
“Plucky protagonists and a deftly woven story will appeal to anyone who has ever felt a bit lost in the universe. Readers across the board will flock to this book that has something for nearly everyone-humor, bullying, self-acceptance, cross-generational relationships, and a smartly fateful ending.” (School Library Journal (starred review))
“Kelly offers up a charming novel about a serendipitous friendship that forms among a trio of sixth graders after a bully’s heartless act brings them together. ...Infused with humor and hope, this book deftly conveys messages of resilience and self-acceptance through simple acts of everyday courage.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Kelly creates rich and distinctive characters…through Kelly’s playful, inventive plotting, Virgil, Valencia, Kaori and Chet all confront ‘the universe’ in their own way. In the process, Kelly gives this hope to young readers: we can each discover our inner hero and transform even our toughest struggles.” (Shelf Awareness)
“Told in alternating perspectives of the three kid-heroes and one villain...the children’s inner lives are distinctive, and each rings true.” (Horn Book Magazine)
“Folklore, fairy tales, astrology, mysticism and dreams all mingle together to create a wonderful, fantastical and unique world...there is so much for every reader contained within.” (BookPage)
“Fate seems to be trying to bring Valencia and Virgil together, according to Kaori, but it’s sure not taking any sort of direct route. …There’s a touch of Snyder’s classic The Egypt Game here, as a group of disparate youngsters make their own maybe-magic…and find surprising bonds.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)
“Through Kelly’s playful, inventive plotting, Virgil, Valencia, Kaori and Chet all confront ‘the universe’ in their own way. In the process, Kelly gives this hope to young readers: we can each discover our inner hero and transform even our toughest struggles by...reaching out to friends and loved ones.” (Shelf Awareness (starred review))
About the Author
Erin Entrada Kelly grew up in south Louisiana and now lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Erin's mother was the first in her family to immigrate to the United States from the Philippines. This is Erin Entrada Kelly's first book.
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Top Customer Reviews
The novel takes place in a single day featuring four middle schoolers. In the center is Virgil Salinas, a highly introverted member of a large extrovert family who call him Turtle “Because he wouldn’t ‘come out of his shell,’ Every time they said it, a piece of him broke.” The exception is his Filipina grandmother Lola who calls him Virgilio, gets him completely, and tells him folk tales to bolster him through life’s challenges. Virgil has a crush on deaf and confident Valencia Somerset, but is too shy to let her know. And so he has become a client of the young physic Kaori Tanaka who, with her younger sister Gen, intends to help him. Last of all there is Chet Bullens who has bullied Virgil unceasingly.
An encounter in the woods with Chet leaves Virgil in a life-threatening situation. Readers are firmly with him as he reacts to this, tries to figure out what to do, and considers some of Lola’s tales as a way to build strength in a dire moment. Here is where my admiration for Kelly’s writing really takes hold as she masterfully balances the emotionally of Virgil’s circumstances on that tightrope without a misstep. The threads of the other characters move in and out of Virgil’s difficulty. We get in Chet’s head and, while we learn more about what may have turned him so mean, we don’t forgive him for it. Kaori’s adult-like serene style is delightfully balanced with her little sister Gen’s humorously typical second-grader behavior. Interestingly, while these character storylines are all in third person, Valencia’s is in first person; from her tolerance of her father calling her an endearment she could do without to her forthright response to Chet, we easily see how crush-worthy she is.
There is suspense as we hold our breath wondering how Virgil will be saved, there is humor (especially from little Gen), and there is the slow evolution of different personalities, and of what will be, we can be certain, a warm friendship between Virgil, Valencia, and Kaori beyond the book’s ending. It may be this is a book for introverts? I can’t say, but it provided all that I want in a book for children — an intriguing plot, beautifully articulated characters, tight and elegant sentences, wit, and opportunity for thought. Hello, Universe is one quiet, emotional book that I recommend highly.
Kelly’s novel is rich and riveting. She writes about children who are lonely and interesting. The book speaks to children who don’t fit in, who are bullied, and who are unique in some way. It’s about staying true to yourself and not trying to be someone else. Important subjects weave throughout as well, including deafness and diversity. These enrich the novel even further, making it a book that grapples with important topics and yet stays entirely accessible and filled with plenty of action.
The characters are what make this book sing. Each of them is more than what could have been a stereotype. From the mystical Kaori to shy Virgil to Valencia and her hearing aids, each child has a full personality and plenty to offer the reader. Each is grappling with loneliness and unable to move forward though they know they need to. There is a beautiful theme of folktales and myth throughout the novel with the grandmother’s stories forming a basis for the coincidences and fate that brings our young heroes together.
An intelligent adventure of a book that is about friendships that seem impossible but happen anyway. Appropriate for ages 9-12.