Hello, Universe

Book review by
Amanda Nojadera, Common Sense Media
Hello, Universe Book Poster Image
Charming tale of friendship, courage, and self-acceptance.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

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

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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.


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.


A bully calls two characters "retard," "mentally defective," and "deafo." Other insults include "moron," "dumbo," "doofus," "pansy," and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An adult smokes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Erin Entrada Kelly's Hello, Universe, which won the 2018 Newbery Medalis 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. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6 and 8-year-old Written byMr. DLR June 14, 2020

I love using this book with my students

My teaching partners and I love using this book with our fifth grade students. Great range of characters and representation with Filipino characters, as well a... Continue reading
Adult Written bygueslibrarian December 1, 2018

My 11 year old related to several characters and loved this book.

As a middle school librarian, I can say, we loved this book. It has a bunch of unique characters- one hard of hearing Valencia, one bully Chet, a boy whose best... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old April 20, 2018

Hello, Universe is the one novel that should be in the hands of every reader

A boy gets stuck in a well when the neighborhood bully plays a prank on him and a small group of misfit children band together to find and rescue him. This book... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byReviewer3 March 17, 2021


To be clear, the last time I read this book was a couple of years ago, but from what I can remember it was amazing. The characters come from a variety of backgr... Continue reading

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love stories about friendship

Themes & Topics

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