By Amanda Nojadera,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Charming tale of friendship, courage, and self-acceptance.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Kids will learn about Filipino folktales and words such as "bayani" (hero) and "lola" (grandmother). They'll also learn about constellations, zodiac signs, avoiding snake bites, Jane Goodall, and Gulliver's Travels.
Strong messages about the power of friendship, teamwork, courage, and self-acceptance. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Nothing is ever hopeless. Find your inner hero.
Positive Role Models
Although Virgil is shy and quiet throughout the story, he gains the courage to stand up to a bully, tell his mother how he feels about his "Turtle" nickname, and say hello to make a new friend. Valencia is smart and brave and doesn't let disability stop her from pursuing her interests. Kaori is a great friend to Virgil and the first to notice that he's missing. Kaori also quickly understands how to communicate with Valencia. Lola makes Virgil feel like he belongs even though he feels different from his family. Ruby San Salvador gives Virgil the strength he needs to never stop believing.
Violence & Scariness
Sensitive readers might be frightened by the folktales about children getting eaten by animals. Virgil and his pet get trapped at the bottom of a well. Virgil imagines confronting Chet and throwing him across the neighborhood onto a burning hot chimney. For a few seconds in the woods, Virgil thinks that Chet might smother him or animals in the woods with a pillowcase. Chet gets bit by a snake.
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A bully calls two characters "retard," "mentally defective," and "deafo." Other insults include "moron," "dumbo," "doofus," "pansy," and more.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
An adult smokes.
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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.
Where to Read
Based on 3 parent reviews
I love using this book with my students
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My 11 year old related to several characters and loved this book.
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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?
How do the kids demonstrate teamwork and courage? Why are these important character strengths?
- Author: Erin Entrada Kelly
- Illustrator: Isabel Roxas
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Friendship, Middle School
- 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
- Last updated: September 25, 2020
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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