- Jessica Farrow
Five kids, one well, and no coincidences. At least that’s what Kaori Tanaka, self-proclaimed 12-year-old psychic, tells her clients: no coincidences.
Of course, right now, Kaori’s psychic business is limited to an assistant—her little sister Gen—and one client—Virgil Salinas. Virgil is shy, misunderstood by everyone in his boisterous family except his Filipina grandmother, and bullied by Chet Bullens. He also needs Kaori’s help in figuring out how to approach Valencia Somerset, whom he would desperately like to befriend. Valencia is deaf, loves nature, secretly wants a friend, and has just found Kaori’s flyer at the supermarket.
Is it a coincidence that Valencia found Kaori’s flyer? Is it coincidence that she makes an appointment for the same day as Virgil? Is it coincidence that Virgil never makes it to his appointment that day because he has accidentally been trapped in a well by Chet? Hello, Universe, by Erin Entrada Kelly, might just leave you repeating, “No coincidences” with Kaori.
Hello, Universe is a genuine, touching look at family, friendship, and bravery. Entrada skillfully blends together each of the children’s stories, along with retellings of Filipino myths and legends, told by Virgil’s grandmother. Despite the serious themes of the book, it avoids being preachy, and, although the writing maintains a somewhat mythical quality, readers won’t feel that it glosses over the concerns of the characters.
Fans of Entrada’s writing or the Filipino culture and mythology throughout the book will want to grab her other books, The Land of Forgotten Girls and Blackbird Fly. For other books about friendship and finding yourself, look for Bloomability, by Sharon Creech, and The Year of the Dog, by Grace Lin.