Greenwillow Books / Harper Collins Canada
By Erin Entrada Kelly, illustrated by Isabel Roxas
age 8 to 12
Synopsis from Harper Collins Canada:
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.
School’s out, summer’s started and an unexpected adventure begins for a few unlikely friends. The four main characters: shy and awkward Virgil, nature loving Valencia who is also deaf, strong willed Kaori with the gift of second sight, and Chet the bully. A series of seemingly unrelated lead to these four characters crossing paths in Hello, Universe (affiliate link), this week’s book pick.
I don’t believe in fate thinking we have no real control over the outcome of our future. However, the premise of influencing events is one I am intrigued by and is one I often share with my own kids. Positive energy leads to positive return. Kaori believes she has this gift to interpret what the universe is trying to tell us (thus the title Hello, Universe). She, in conjunction with Valencia who has an extensive knowledge about nature, work together to save Virgil.
I loved the characters (except Chet the bully though we do get a peek at father’s influence on his negative behaviour). Virgil, Kaori, and Valencia are all outsiders to some degree as they are different. It’s these differences that bring them together. The story is told from multiple character viewpoints. Although this isn’t always affective, the author did a good job distinguishing the voices in the chapters. The addition of the little images at the top of each page also helped guide which character was speaking.
Tweens will find qualities in one or all of the characters that they can relate to. The individual stories and the paths that lead them together, culminating in an unexpected disaster, will keep kids reading until the end. The story taking place at the start of summer vacation makes it a great summer read, maybe inspiring some outdoor adventure and taking chances on new friendship
We actually received this book as part of the March Owlcrate Jr. subscription box and what a great read. If you have a tween you might want to read more about Owlcrate Jr in our March unboxing post as well as our April unboxing post.
You can get an inside peek to this book in the following video review, published within our Middle Grade playlist on our Youtube channel every Wednesday: