A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Erin Entrada Kelly's Hello, Universe, which won the 2018 Newbery Medal, is told from the perspective of four kids -- two boys and two girls -- over the course of a day. Sensitive readers might be frightened by the Filipino folktales about kids getting eaten by animals. A kid and his pet get trapped at the bottom of a well, and another gets bit by a snake. A kid imagines confronting his bully and throwing him onto a burning hot chimney. He also thinks for a few seconds that he might get smothered by a pillowcase in the woods. A bully repeatedly calls two characters "retard" and "deafo." Other insults include "moron," "dumbo," "doofus," and more. Although bullying is a major part of the book, kids will learn about the power of friendship, courage, teamwork, and self-acceptance.
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What's the story?
HELLO, UNIVERSE tells the story of four kids -- Virgil Salinas, Valencia Somerset, Kaori Tanaka, and Chet Bullens -- whose lives become connected over the course of a day. Virgil's family calls him "Turtle" because he never comes out of his shell. He's too shy to befriend Valencia Somerset, his smart, deaf, and secretly lonely classmate. Both Virgil and Valencia know what it's like to feel different and hope that Kaori can use her self-proclaimed psychic powers to help them overcome their fears. When neighborhood bully Chet Bullens plays an awful prank on Virgil, it's up to Valencia, Kaori, and Kaori's little sister, Gen, to find Virgil. Through teamwork and a little help from the universe, these neighborhood kids become friends, battle a bully, and find their inner heroes.
Is it any good?
Kids will love this charming adventure that emphasizes the power of friendship, courage, and self-acceptance. Through quirky humor and the diverse, relatable characters, Hello, Universe captures what it's like to feel different and the joy of realizing you belong. There may be some frightening moments for sensitive readers, but the characters' perseverance and teamwork will inspire kids to find their own inner heroes and remind them that they're never alone.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Hello, Universe deals with bullying. How does this issue affect the characters, especially Virgil and Valencia?
Do you ever feel different or left out? When? Do you think others in your class or school feel that way? What can you do to help them feel included?
- Author: Erin Entrada Kelly
- Illustrator: Isabel Roxas
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Friendship, Middle school, Misfits and underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Greenwillow Books
- Publication date: March 14, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: Newbery Medal and Honors
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