Hello, Universe by Erin Estrada Kelly

Published by Greenwillow Books

Summary:  Four kids from the same neighborhood share the story of an early summer day.  Valencia, whose voice is the only first person one, loves spending time observing the natural world, but sometimes feels cut off from other kids because she is deaf.  Virgil is the only quiet member of a loud, boisterous family and struggles at school, both academically and socially.  Kaori believes herself to have psychic powers and uses them to try to help Virgil.  Chet is a bully who picks on Virgil.  When he throws Virgil’s backpack in an old dry well, Virgil climbs down to rescue his guinea pig who is in the pack and can’t get back out.  Meanwhile, Valencia and Kaori have met for the first time, on a day Virgil had an appointment with Kaori.  When he doesn’t show up, they suspect something is wrong, and the wheels are set in motion for all four characters to come together.  Their lives intersect in the woods, where a dramatic rescue sets the stage for a happy ending.  320 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  Kelly does a masterful job of creating fully developed characters through the dialogue, actions, of memories of each child.  Even the bully becomes more understandable as the story unfolds.  Virgil’s plight is enough to keep the pages turning to the end.

Cons:  There’s (possibly) a bit of magic for Virgil in the well that might be confusing to younger readers.

 

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