Comments (26)Add a Comment
I can certainly understand why this won a Newbery Medal...the characters are so well-done. They are each unique but brought together in a natural way. Switching between four first-person perspectives has the potential to confuse the reader but Kelly makes it seamless. I think she mastered the voices of each of the characters and does a fantastic job of portraying their struggles.
Hello, Universe is an adventurous tale with themes of friendship and fate so prominent that it almost feels like a juvenile-appropriate "romance." The story is not "cheesy" or "mushy" at all, but with characters clearly drawn to one another, including feeling "butterflies in their stomach," the allusion of romance is apparent. Despite those undertones, there is plenty of excitement to keep non-romance readers interested, including snake-bitten bullies and a near-tragedy so insurmountable that the character's friends must save him. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in realistic juvenile fiction with a romantic twist, but I would also recommend it to fans of realistic fiction in general.
Reviewed by Miss Allison
I haven't been able to figure out why books receive the Newbery. This was okay, kind of quiet, interesting how it was told from four points of view, but best for 2018? Hmm.
This was an awesome book. Read it with my son (10) and we both enjoyed it very much.
Fans of quirky characters and the idea of fate will enjoy this read. The book is charming with a positive message about self-esteem and the meaning of friends.
Perfectly simple and spot-on in every way: the accidental/natural diversity of the characters; the pure and straightforward plot that was more about these children than what happens next; the great humor; the wisdom about aloneness, friendship, and connectedness; the accurate depiction of everyday middle-school-ness; the deftly deployed magical realism. Plus -- there was a guinea pig. Loved it; didn't want it to end.
Valencia, the character with hearing loss was wonderfully developed. I think that kids with hearing loss will relate to the ways that Valencia feels isolated and lonely. I also think that kids with hearing loss can find hope for friendship and understanding in the ways we see Valencia develop throughout the story. Below is one of Valencia's tellings that was particularly poignant and that I found completely relatable to my childhood hearing loss struggles:
'I wish I was prepared for when Roberta and I stopped being friends.
You know how sometimes you're friends with someone and they start hanging out with other people and eventually you're not friends anymore, but you can't remember when it all happened? Well, that's not the way it was with Roberta. I know the exact date: October twelfth, fourth grade. Roberta and the other girls were playing chase and I was doing my best to play, too. But after the game was over, she walked up to me and said, "We don't want you to play with us anymore."
"Why?" I asked, even though I already knew the answer.
"The how-tos are too hard," she said. "And you're too slow."
The how-tos were what we called the three ways to talk so I could understand: face me, don't cover your mouth, and speak clearly.
When she said I was too slow, I knew what she meant, too.
When we raced, I could never tell exactly when Megan Lewis called out, "Ready, set, go!" I could see she was getting ready to call it out, but I was never totally sure she had said all three words. When we played musical chairs, I couldn't tell when the music stopped. With hide-and-seek, I never knew when ready-or-not-here-I-come happened. I always figured it out, but I was usually two or three steps behind everyone else. It slowed down the game. I knew that. I guess I just didn't know that everyone else knew it, too. I thought I'd fooled them. But Roberta set me straight.' pp 143-144
As others have commented, this is a well-written book with an intriguing plot and likeable characters. It would be a good books for teachers to use in discussing point of view. A different character narrates each chapter as the story unfolds. I loved how this gave greater insight into characters that might otherwise be relatively flat, for example the bully and his target.
I loved this sweet story of friendship with an important message about bullying.
A Great Books for Great Kids pick for grades 4-6.
Exciting novel about new friendship between three children with few connections between them. Winner of the 2018 John Newbery Medal.
Extremely shy 7th-grader-to-be Virgil Salinas would like to meet hearing-disabled 7th-grader-to-be Valencia Somerset, whom he has seen every day in school. They are each isolated in their own way but don’t know how to break out. Both are being harassed by Chet, a bully in their grade. In hope of getting a new perspective, Virgil and Valencia separately decide to visit another middle school student, Kaori Tanaka, who is trying to be a fortune teller, in hopes of getting a new perspective.
However, when Virgil is walking through the woods to get to Kaori’s house, Chet throws Virgil’s backpack down a dry well. Since the backpack contains Virgil’s pet guinea pig, he climbs into the well and gets trapped, comforted only slightly by his memories of his grandmother’s heroic stories of Filipino folklore. The excellent characters, even the bully, are what make the story work.
When a bully's prank has unintended consequences, it takes determination and some big hearts to make things right. With elements of suspense, featuring interesting and diverse characters, "Hello, Universe" is a compelling, satisfying read.
"There are no coincidences"...such a simple theme, and yet such a cool read! Valencia reminded me so much of Melody from Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. She's witty and perceptive. Definitely check this one out!
I read this book to my 8 year old and it only took about five hours (a few chapters at a time). We both really enjoyed it, there were some intense scenes when Virgil is stuck down in the well, and it allowed my son and I to discuss some philosophy and also practical safety matters, like what choices would you make in that situation? It was neat to have two protagonists and different tenses, and to see how their paths would finally meet. I liked all the names of the characters... Virgil being Dante's companion in his descent into hell... and the theme of the guinea pigs named after gullivers travels. I liked the changes that Virgil went through, and found a lot of humor in his relationship with his grandma.
This book is a very unique book. Most books only have one point of view, but in this book, there is four. The main characters, Virgil Salinas, Kaori Tanaka, Valencia Somerset, and Chet Bullens, all experienced coincidences. I read most of the other comments about this book, and most of it is about coincidences. But what could the author do? Life is full of coincidences, which only makes it better. I would recommend this book for 5th graders and middle schoolers, because the vocabulary seems to be just right. The only part that I do not like about this book is the strange actions. For example, one of the characters mentioned a Spirit thing, and this just made very weird. Overall, this book is one of the greatest books that I have ever read. I recommend this book to you. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the book! :)
I am not a fan of this book. The story line was very slow. It was also confusing at time with 4 different characters telling the story.
A well told story about four middle school students who become unexpected friends. The story is told from the perspective of four friends and deftly conveys how taking the time to know someone can lead to a blossoming friendship. The author, Erin Estrada Kelly, unwinds the story in its four parts to reveal four unique characters whose strengths shine when the universe conspires to create a situation where they need each other.
Apparently I did not love this book as much as the Newbery Committee. The diverse characters were a plus: a small Philippino boy, a deaf girl, a wannabe fortune-teller and a bully. I did appreciate the way the plot brought these characters together in the woods and also gave each of them some resolution to their particular problem. Although the universe is credited with the random events that bring them together, I prefer to give that credit to our Creator. The plot line with a boy stuck in the well also added suspense. What I did not love was a preteen girl casting herself as a fortune-teller, drawing other kids in as her customers and inventing ceremonies. Religious rites should be given their due respect and are not to be used for profit.
Is life just random? Or does everything happen for a reason? That is what 11-year-old Kaori, the neighborhood psychic, believes. So when her classmate and client Virgil does not show up for his 3:00 session, she knows something is amiss. Kaori recruits new new client, 11-year-old Valencia (who wears a hearing aid but is very nature-smart) to help her look for Virgil and his pet guinea pig. The paths of four oddball middle-school kids cross in the woods. Was this meant to be?
I enjoyed the wide-eyed openness to the synchronicities in life of this book. Four young people learn to find inner strength and friendship in the delightful twists of fate.
I enjoyed this book but I'm a little surprised it won the Newbery. I thought there were too many coincidences for everything to come together the way it did. The whole "there are no coincidences" thing is a bit hokey, too. But I do think children would enjoy the story, so maybe it is deserving. Lola and her stories were my favorite part, by far. The ending was kind of anticlimactic, too.
A lovely tale of friendship and connection and the obstacles that stand in their way. Excellent, appealing characters.
I really enjoyed this story of friendship due to its strong characters, & the tales told by Lola, Virgil's Grandmother, which take on a life of their own!