Hello, Universe

Publisher: Piccadilly

Virgil, or ‘Turtle’ as his parents call him, for his shyness, has a crush on Valencia – a no-nonsense deaf girl at his school who doesn’t know he’s alive. Needing guidance, and looking for something more than the doom-laden stories his grandmother keeps telling him, he makes an appointment with self-professed kid psychic, Kaori, for help. Yet, on his way to her house, Virgil falls foul of the school bully, Chet Bullens, who throws his backpack down an old well. Trouble is, Virgil had his guinea pig in the backpack, so he climbs into the well to get it, only to get trapped there. Can Kaori, Valencia and Kaori’s little sister Gen find Virgil before it’s too late?

Told via multiple points of view, this sparsely-written but evocative, thoughtful book is an intriguing, relatable friendship story. Erin Entrada Kelly – winner of the Newbery Medal in America – weaves family complexities into each character’s backstory so that they are all three-dimensional kids dealing with various expectations and relationships which affect their behaviour, from Chet’s intolerant dad to Virgil’s parents’ casual nickname that has a much deeper impact on his feelings than they realise. A perfect, easy read friendship story for upper primary school aged children which nonetheless holds nuance and a quirky sensitivity in its pages.

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