After Erin Entrada Kelly's Hello, Universe won the 2018 Newbery Medal for outstanding contribution to children's literature, I immediately requested the book from my local library. (My dog Cooper could tell this one was going to be good!)
The Newbery judges called Hello Universe a “modern quest” that “shimmers with humor and authentic emotion.”
I call it masterful storytelling.
1. Alternating points of view
Not only is each chapter told from differing viewpoints, but they are written in different tenses. Valencia’s chapters are in the present tense. (“I walk up to the well. Sure enough, the mouth is wide open. Someone’s been goofing off. And here’s evidence: a small pile of rocks, neatly placed.”) Yet Virgil’s story is written in the past. (“He flinched, the same way he did when teachers called on him even though he hadn’t raised his hand. Virgil covered his ears. He pressed his palms against them until it hurt.”) As a writer, this is extremely difficult to pull off. Yet Erin Entrada Kelly did so seamlessly, weaving the story together without pause.
2. Amazing plotting
When I started reading, I didn’t see how the four kids’ stories would weave together. But, sure enough, the lives of these children collided in a surprising way. As a writer, I know this was carefully planned and plotted, perhaps over the course of many years.
3. Gorgeous writing
"The darkness had teeth that snapped and clenched, and here was Virgil, sitting at the bottom of its throat.”
“The voice breezed through the well like steam drifting from a cup of hot chocolate.”
“Ruby sighed. The sound traveled like a curl of invisible smoke.”
"He couldn’t breathe, either. His lungs had been stolen by the darkness.”
4. High-stakes adventure
Kaori: I know everything about dreams. I’ve studied Freud. Would you like an appointment?
Valencia: How old are u? how do I know ur not crazy killer?
Kaori: I’m 12 and don’t be ridiculous.
Valencia: U don’t sound 12
Kaori: That’s because I’m the reincarnated spirit of a 65-year-old freedom fighter.
Hello Universe most definitely deserves the highest of accolades. Middle grade readers are in for a treat!