Monday, July 2, 2018

July's Book of the Month--Hello, Universe

July’s Book the Month is the 2018 Newbery Medal winner, HELLO, UNIVERSE, by Erin Entrada Kelly.

In this story, four middle school kids, along with a very important little sister, collide during the course of one fateful day.

Shy Virgil feels like a Grand Failure. He's misunderstood by his outgoing, athletic family, and can’t seem to learn his multiplication tables. And, even though he’s sure he’s meant to be friends with Valencia Somerset from school, it’s been a whole year and he's never managed to utter a word to her.

Valencia is trying to convince herself she’ll have a nice, lazy summer, feeding the stray dog in the woods near her house, sketching, and taking notes on squirrel behavior. Who needs friends, anyway?

Kaori, “a proud Gemini,” runs a psychic business, with help from her younger sister Gen, offering spiritual guidance and interpreting dreams for other kids.

And Chet is a bully who's been horrible to both Virgil and Valencia. Virgil thinks of him as the Bull: "Always ready to charge, always fired up to call Virgil a retard or a pansy.”

When Virgil runs into Chet on his way to Kaori’s house on that first day of summer, Chett pulls a horrible prank and events quickly spiral out of control.

HELLO, UNIVERSE examines many different kinds of relationships: family, friends (how good ones are lost and found), and how bullies and victims get made. There is big-time drama when Chet meets Virgil in the woods, but also plenty of gentle moments. The alternate narrators allow readers a deeper understanding of the motivations of all the characters, rather than judging them on their actions alone. It’s pretty enlightening, and a smart way to approach this engrossing story.


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