Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

Title: Hello, Universe

Author: Erin Entrada Kelly

Publication Information: 2017 by Greenwillow Books/Harper Collins

The Plot: Virgil Salinas is a shy boy who is overshadowed by his older brothers and pushed around by the neighborhood bully Chet. He longs to talk to the pretty girl in school Valencia Somerset. To overcome his shyness, he seeks the help of local child psychic Kaori Tanaka and her sister Gen. When an accident occurs, Virgil must rely on the team of Valencia, Kaori, and Gen to help him.

My Take: This Newbery Medal winner has gentle characters and a straightforward plot but lacks narrative momentum. Even a major accident that befalls the main character does not stir enough urgency into the plot. Erin Entrada Kelly definitely surpassed this work with her more recent novel Lalani And The Distant Sea. For those looking for a middle grade realistic fiction, I would recommend other titles.

One Interesting Note About The Author: According to her website, Erin Entrada Kelly is of mixed Philippine descent. She was raised in a household in which people spoke the Philippine dialect Cebuano (as opposed to Tagalog).

‘The Ethan I Was Before’ by Ali Standish

ethan i was beforeThe Plot In Five Sentences Or Less:  Ethan and his family are moving from Boston to a small town in coastal Georgia, seeking a new start after a traumatic experience involving Ethan and his best friend Kacey.  As Ethan learns to adjust to his new settings and to try to make peace with the past, he makes a new friend in Coralee, a lively girl who helps Ethan settle into his new life.  But being friends with Coralee also brings its own complications, some that remind him of his painful experience with Kacey.  As Ethan and Coralee’s friendship deepens, they discover that the past has a way of resurfacing in painful ways.

My Take:  This was an excellent read and I can understand it’s inclusion on a lot of mock Newberry lists this year.  Ethan’s pain is convincing and as readers we are pulling for him to find some way to resolve his grief and find solace in his new relationships.   Standish does employ some well worn tropes (the mean girl, the bully, etc.) but none of that should bother younger readers.  I definitely recommend this to anyone looking for good realistic fiction about trying to make peace with the past.

One Interesting Note About The Author:  According to her website, when Ali Standish was young, she and her mother would play a story game.  Ali would give her three things (like blueberries, a panda bear, and a snowy forest, for example) and her mother would be challenged to create a story out of it.