20 Apr Staff Reads: Hello, Universe
“There are no coincidences,” repeats Kaori Tanaka, a character in Hello, Universe. Author Erin Entrada Kelly vividly describes four middle schoolers whose paths cross in a neighborhood one fateful day. Kaori, a self-proclaimed psychic, believes the universe operates in a purposeful manner. Virgil’s family nicknames him “Turtle” because he is so shy. Smart Valencia loves nature but is lonely, and hearing impaired. And then there is Chet, a bully who dislikes anyone who isn’t “normal.”
Things get dicey when Chet throws Virgil’s backpack (along with his guinea pig Gulliver) down a well in the woods. Virgil confronts his worst fears to save Gulliver. Meanwhile, Valencia, who has been having the same dream over and over, travels to Kaori’s house through the woods so that Kaori can explain her dream. Kaori convinces Valencia to help search for Virgil, who has admired Valencia from afar and is now missing. The girls eventually catch up with Chet and piece together clues to find and save Virgil and Gulliver.
Kelly’s text flows naturally, voiced by relatable narrators that remind of us of the folks in our own neighborhood and people in our own family. Despite the friends’ diverse backgrounds, a commonality exists. Virgil hears stories from his Filipino grandmother. Kaori tells of her Japanese ancestry. Generations passing down stories that teach us about courage and heroes. And sometimes that courage and those heroes can be found right inside us.
This lovely story is the winner of the 2018 John Newbery Medal as the Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children. Our Library has physical copies of Hello, Universe on our shelves as well as electronic and audio versions through Overdrive and Libby.
What others are saying
“A charming, intriguingly plotted novel.”—Washington Post
“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