Acclaimed and award-winning author Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe is a funny and poignant neighborhood story about unexpected friendships. Told from four intertwining points of view—two boys and two girls—the novel celebrates bravery, being different, and finding your inner bayani (hero), and it’s perfect for fans of Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Thanhha Lai, and Rita Williams-Garcia.
In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his crazy-about-sports family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and she loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister, Gen, is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just stop being so different so that he can concentrate on basketball. They aren’t friends, at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find the missing Virgil. Sometimes four can do what one cannot. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms. The acclaimed author of Blackbird Fly and The Land of Forgotten Girls writes with an authentic, humorous, and irresistible tween voice that will appeal to fans of Thanhha Lai and Rita Williams-Garcia.--from the publisher
320 pages 978-0062414151 Ages 8-12
No one in Virgil's family sees him, I mean really gets who he is, except for Lola, his grandmother. She looks beyond the hubbub of the family with the older twin brothers, questions flying from them a million miles an hour and the parents who love to laugh, loud and long. In the midst of it all is Virgil, who they call Turtle because he won't come out of his shell. But when Lola comes to live with them, she puts it all together at light speed and zeroes in on her favorite grandson, Virgil.
Lola is the one who tells him the folktales and myths from the culture of her country, the Philippines. It is Lola who tells him the story of the Stone Boy and of Pah. Virgil feels he can tell Lola things he can't tell his parents or his brothers. He can tell her about a lot of his days at school but there are still some things he can't even bear to share. These are secrets so precious he can barely tell himself.
But one day, he decides he needs help with his biggest problem. That's the day he makes his appointment with Kaori, the eleven year old psychic girl who knows all. That same day unbeknownst to Virgil, a deaf girl who comes to the same Resource Room at school that Virgil is called to, makes an appointment with Kaori, too. Fate is going to bring these young people together in the most amazing way. Their fate will intertwine with the fate of Chet, the bully, who is desperately trying to get his father's approval and love.
Five characters, Virgil, Valencia, Kaori and her sister Gen, and the dreaded Chet are going to walk a path into the forest. Each will be searching for something different. Utterly charming, Kaori and Gen, make the perfect duo for saving a life or two. Valencia's courage and sense of self will thrill you and you will start cheering for Virgil on about page 5. Chet, well we all know the Chets of the world, sending their pain and desperation out into the world to wound others with the hope they will fill an empty space or two inside themselves. We won't ever like him but we can see him clearly for who he is in these pages.
Humorous, quirky, and holding a well of empathy and compassion, this is the story of wonderful children finding their way to themselves and searching for someone who will "get" who they are and will accept, respect and just naturally want to be a friend. With the labels stripped away these children come into their own and realize they do indeed, belong right here.
320 pages 978-0062414151 Ages 8-12
Read alike: Truth As Told By Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor
Keywords: Newbery Medal, adventure, courage, finding yourself, belonging, diversity, diverse books, 8 year old, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com