Hello Universe Read-along Part 1
It's here, it's finally here! Our read-along of Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly is finally here!
Why am I so excited? I'm ecstatic because Kelly is, I believe, the first Filipina-American to receive the Newbery medal.
Why is that important to me?
We've heard the phrase WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS over and over again. And it's true. No matter how many times you hear it, or if you're sick of hearing the same things in conferences, we still need diverse books. When I was growing up, I NEVER saw myself in the books I read. Ever.
I love that I'm growing up (again) with my girls and seeing so much that they can encounter and learn. (And, yes, I will still stand by the fact that I LOVE Kelly Marie Tran's role in The Last Jedi.)
In fact, I was so excited that Erin Entrada Kelly won the Newbery Medal that I did this read-along a little differently: I distributed ten copies of Hello, Universe to my fellow bibliophiles and colleagues who love to read. I hope they'll help us chime in on Hello, Universe in the comments below.
Okay, sigh. You've all heard me rant about preferring on characters' point of view, especially during our last read-along of Wonder. So imagine my disorientation when after the first chapter of me falling in love with Lola and relating with Virgil/Virgilio, and then all of a sudden we're in someone else's point of view! It's a bit jarring, but I understand why Entrada Kelly switches point of view, though in my opinion Chet's isn't needed because it doesn't add much to the story overall.
Having said that, I did fully believe in the quirkiness and magicorealism of Kaori and Gen, and in the solid, unwavering viewpoint from Valencia. In the end, I'm not sure if I related more to Valencia or Virgil, but you can see their connection in their loneliness and in NOT BEING HEARD by the world around them.
Mini Me's biggest criticism is the fact that Valencia's point of view is first person present tense whereas the other characters are in third person past tense. It's jarring, and feels very 'writerly' rather than just counting on voice to clue the reader in to the shift.
I just love Virgil's Lola. Period. I can fully relate to her even though she's not exactly like my own Lola though my Lola was the BEST storyteller. And my Lola also had a special relationship with each and every one of her grandchildren. Because I bet that even though Virgil is her favored/favorite grandchild, the Lola in this novel also likely has a cherished connection with the twins too.
Do you have a grandparent who liked to tell stories?
The Spoiler Part
So, I think that we all knew that something bad was going to happen in the woods....because it's the woods! And we knew that the something bad was going to happen to Virgil, though it wasn't quite what I pictured even though the gorgeously-illustrated book cover definitely hints at it. So I shouldn't have been all too surprised when <EXTRA SPOILER ALERT, DO NOT CONTINUE TO READ IF YOU HAVEN'T FINISHED THE FIRST HALF OF THE BOOK!> Virgil gets trapped in the well and why. I like, however, that the crisis and climax of the novel is not fully predictable. And I love that Virgil digs within himself to be brave. And that Lola's stories and myths have a purpose besides entertaining Virgil and the reader.
For a fun read about Erin Entrada Kelly and her creative process, please read this article from the School Library Journal.
***In two weeks, we'll discuss the second half of Hello, Universe.
Tell Dr. Bookworm!
What did you think about Erin Entrada Kelly's Hello, Universe? Did you have a character who you preferred or related to the most? Were all of the characters believable to you? If you have only read the first part, do you have any guesses as to how the conflict will be resolved?
Magicorealism definitely plays a part in Filipino culture and folklore—what did you think about the spirit of Pah and Lola's stories and how they related later on to Virgil? What about Valencia's prayers to Saint Rene? Or Kaori and her crystals and sixth sense about things?
To my Filipino friends (or those who have grown up with Filipino friends' grandparents), did you grow up with your Lola saying 'sus'? Did you think she was taking God's name in vain? I suppose technically, yes, but I'm trying to resolve another question in my head that my friend and I were talking about. (Namely why the book was not included among others in a book competition for kids.)
And for my younger readers:
What did you think about the use of animals in Hello, Universe? There's the snake, there's Gulliver (guinea pig), and there's Sacred (the dog who lives in the woods). What purpose do you think each of them played?
How would reading about someone who is deaf, like Valencia, change how you approach a new classmate who may be deaf? Did hearing/reading about her point of view and experiences make you second guess how you may have responded in the past?
Between the four main characters (Virgil, Valencia, Kaori, and Chet), who do you think is most alike or different and why?