Book Title: Hello, Universe (available here)
Author: Erin Entrada Kelly
Illustrator: Sylvie Le Floc’h
Publisher: Piccadilly Press
Publication Date: May 2020
Most Suitable For: Years 4-6
Reviewed By: Claire Coates
Hello, Universe is told from four contrasting viewpoints that intertwine. The four characters in the story all have quite different perspectives on life and, under normal circumstances, would have very little in common. Virgil, the heart of the story, is a sensitive child who has little self-esteem and sees himself as weak. He is bullied by a local boy, Chet, and is called ‘turtle’ by his parents, because he won’t come out of his shell. The story starts at the beginning of the summer break and sees him filled with anxiety and worry for the weeks ahead.
Whilst this is happening, three other characters are introduced: Chet, the bully, is shown to be overwhelmed by his own insecurities and trying to live up to his domineering father’s expectations; Valencia, a profoundly deaf classmate of Virgil, is planning a summer of zoological study; and Kaori is setting up a psychic business.
The action comes to a head in the middle of the thick forest and through a dramatic development, they are all made to reconsider how they interact with each other.
Erin Entrada Kelly’s beautiful storytelling style shines through the book and her own Filipino-American heritage adds insight into Virgil’s character. It is exciting and fast-paced and would be a brilliant book to use as a starting point for discussion around inclusion and bullying, as well as a means of introducing the fascinating countryside of rural North America.
Many thanks to the publisher for sending us a review copy of this book and to Review Panel member Claire for reviewing it.
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