by Erin Entrada Kelly
Illustrated by Isabel Roxas
Related Activities & Resources:
Erin Entrada Kelly website:
Erin Entrada Kelly biography:
Erin Entrada blog:
Erin Entrada Kelly introduces Hello, Universe (video) (00:49):
Isabel Roxas website:
Isabel Roxas biography:
Activities & Resources:
Erin Entrada Kelly teaching guide (HarperCollins):
Hello, Universe contains many legends that are sources of inspiration and instruction. Write a legend that might help Virgil, Valencia, Kaori, or Chet deal with a personal problem. Illustrate the legend for display in the classroom or library.
Design a new book jacket for Hello, Universe. On the inside front flap, relate your design to the book’s characters, setting, and/or plot. Use the following website for book jacket inspiration:
Choose a scene from the book and write a dramatic presentation or a readers theater, based on the scene. Recruit actors to participate in the readers theater. After practicing dramatic interpretation, timing, and expression, present the passage/readers theater to other students as a book teaser.
Hello, Universe is a very quotable book. Choose a memorable sentence from the book and write a letter to a friend, using the quote as a source of support and encouragement. Use one of the following statements, or select a favorite quote from the book:
“Life is a lot easier when you’re prepared for stuff.” (p. 143)
“Sometimes life calls on you even when you don’t raise your hand.” (p. 179)
“People don’t want to listen to their thoughts, so they fill the world with noise.” (p.195)
“There are many ways to fight.” (p. 202)
“Of all the things you ever tell yourself in life, never say, ‘There’s no chance.’” (p. 247)
“The world looks different through newly opened eyes.” (p. 283)
Write an in-depth news report of Virgil’s experience in the well. Include interviews with Virgil, Chet, Valencia, Kaori, and Gen to explore different perspectives on the crisis. Create a video of the newscast and share with the other Hello, Universe readers.
Explore and Learn:
If accessible through your library, check the TexQuest digital resources for articles on the topics below. These resources include Britannica Online School Edition, National Geographic Kids (Gale), Kids InfoBits (Gale), ¡Informe! (Gale), and ProQuest SIRS Discoverer. See the librarian for login information for TexQuest resources.
Use the sites below to gather information for student/class projects or just to find out more about these topics in the book.
Support for deaf and hard of hearing children:
Video: Socializing with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students (5:23):
Kids Quest: Hearing Loss (Center for Disease Control and Prevention):
Information on hearing aids for children:
A selection of videos to help children and adults learn American Sign Language (ASL):
Fun facts about the Philippines:
Read short folk tales from the Philippines:
Filipino cuisine for kids:
Guinea pig care and facts:
Make a guinea pig felt ornament (tutorial):
Fun snake facts for kids:
Snake facts for kids:
Identify snakes that live in Texas:
A star map for each month:
Find out what kids can do about bullying:
Discover the facts about bullying:
Valencia used a journal to record information that she gathered and observations that she made about nature. Using materials found in the makerspace or brought from home, create a journal for observations or sketching. Design a cover for the journal and write a title page that indicates the journal’s purpose.
Build a tabletop version of the well in the woods, complete with cover and ladder. Create a miniature Virgil, Gulliver, and backpack to place at the bottom of the well. Share the finished project with a teacher or librarian to use as a book teaser for Hello, Universe.
Create a book trailer for Hello, Universe, using digital tools like iMovie or Animoto.
Design either a board or an interactive game based on characters and events in the book. Create the game with available art materials (board game) or a coding program like Scratch (interactive) and share with classmates.
Cooking time! Select a tasty dog treat to create for Sacred:
As an extended makerspace project, create a podcast about bullying to share in the classroom or library. Specific directions for planning, recording, editing, and publishing the podcast can be found in Reading Rockets’ Creating podcasts with your students:
Examine the cover of the book. What kind of mood does the artwork create? What prediction might you make about this book from studying the cover?
Each chapter in the book has a little sketched image that relates to one of the main characters in the book. Describe why the following objects are good representations for these four characters: guinea pig (Virgil); bird on a nest (Valencia), star chart (Kaori); and snake (Chet). Then select a different icon for each of the characters and share why the new image reflects each character.
Virgil begins the book by calling himself a “Grand Failure.” (p. 2) Explain whether or not Virgil deserves this title by the end of the book. What different title would you assign to Virgil by the final page? Why is this new title appropriate for Virgil?
Virgil, Valencia, and Kaori are very different from the other members of their families. Contrast these three characters to the parents and siblings in their family unit. Describe how these differences affect their relationships with family.
Virgil’s parents give him a family nickname, Turtle. Share the parents’ reason for this nickname, which they considered endearing. Describe how Virgil feels about this nickname. If you were Virgil’s friend, how would you convince him that “Turtle” can actually be a positive nickname?
Virgil often has important words that he wants to say to his parents or to Valencia, and these thoughts are highlighted in italics. Instead he almost always says something safe or off the topic that he’s really thinking about. Explain why Virgil chooses the safe path instead of sharing his true feelings. Relate this to a time that you observed yourself or a friend choosing not to say what you really meant. What effect did this have on you?
The author chose to write Valencia’s chapters from a first person point of view. Give some possibilities for the decision to have Valencia tell her part of the story in first person instead of with a third person narrator.
In the book, people are often uncomfortable around Valencia because she is deaf. Valencia comments to herself, “Sometimes people get scared when they find out you can’t hear.” (p.173) Suggest some reasons that people would experience fear in the presence of a hearing-impaired person. If Valencia were your friend, what would you tell people who didn’t know how to act around her? Think of someone you know who has an ability difference. How can you help friends interact comfortably with this person and not be afraid?
Valencia has kept a series of journals and notebooks for several years with notes, questions, drawings, and observations. What does the reader learn about Valencia from her journal keeping habits? Suggest some reasons why a journal is a perfect form of communication for this specific character In the book.
When introducing Kaori, the author writes, “Nothing about Kaori was normal.” (p.18) Share examples from the book that support this statement. Explain the reasons that you would or would not choose to be friends with Kaori.
Agree or disagree — Kaori really is a psychic. Share clues from the book that support your opinion.
Virgil will talk with Kaori when he is too shy to speak or share his thoughts and feelings with any other character, including his beloved Lola. Explain the qualities in Kaori’s personality that allow Virgil to speak candidly with her.
When regarding Chet Bullens, Valencia says that “meanness always shows on people’s faces.” (p. 70) Decide if you agree or disagree with this statement and then defend your opinion.
“Like father, like son” is a traditional saying, often used when talking about a person’s behavior and character. Thinking about the scenes in the Super Saver, explain how this saying applies to Chet and his father. What information in these scenes helps the reader better understand Chet as a character in the book?
Many characters are very keen observers of their surroundings and of other people’s behavior. Think of a scene in the book where a character who pays close attention makes a significant impact on the plot. Describe the results of the character’s power of observation in the scene. Share a time when your ability to observe closely made a positive difference in your situation.
Lola, Virgil’s grandmother, often shares legends like the Stone Boy or Ruby San Salvador (the girl who didn’t know her destiny) when she is talking with Virgil. What are some reasons that Lola chooses to tell Virgil these stories? What effect do Lola’s stories have on Virgil?
Virgil has a guinea pig named Gulliver whom he loves very much. Why is a guinea pig a good choice for a pet for Virgil? Share examples from the book that demonstrate how much Virgil cares about his pet.
Sacred is a stray dog that lives in the woods and that Valencia befriends and cares for. What does the word “sacred” mean? What might be a reason that Valencia selected that name for this dog? Give a possible reason for Sacred to follow Virgil, instead of Valencia, home at the end of the book. Predict whether or not Sacred will become Virgil’s family’s pet and share why you’ve drawn that conclusion.
The scenes where Chet bullies Virgil are written in great detail, particularly the confrontation in the woods. How did you react as you read these intense bullying scenes? What would you have done, if you had witnessed the scene in the woods between Chet and Virgil?
What does the reader learn about Virgil when this character decides to climb into the dark, dank, and dangerous well? What makes Virgil put his fear aside and enter the well? Why didn’t Virgil go for help instead of entering the well himself? What would you have done in a similar situation?
How do you explain Ruby San Salvador’s presence in the well with Virgil? How was he able to hear her talking to him? Describe the similarities between Ruby and other characters in the book. How does Virgil help Ruby fulfill her destiny?
While in the well, Virgil hears Ruby say to him, “There are many different ways to be strong. And being a warrior has nothing to do with size.” Explain what Ruby means by this statement. How does Virgil later prove that Ruby spoke the truth?
When Chet is bitten by the snake, he “sat at the base of a sturdy pine tree and waited to die.” (p. 226) Share other actions that Chet could have taken when bitten. Given these other options, why did he choose simply to sit and wait for death? What does this choice reveal about Chet’s personality?
Valencia recalls being good friends with Roberta until she started hanging out with other girls in fourth grade. When Roberta and her new friends refuse to play with Valencia, what decision about having friends does Valencia make? Have you seen similar cliques in your school or neighborhood? What advice would you have given Valencia?
At the beginning of the book, Valencia tells herself, “I don’t need a gazillion friends. I don’t even need one.” (p. 16) At the end of the book, Valencia says of Kaori, “Friends… with that one word, I already feel like a different person.” (p. 262) Explain how Valencia could have changed her mind so dramatically on the subject of friends.
Think about the characters in Hello, Universe and select the one that you would most like for a friend. What are the qualities in this character that appeal to you? Describe why you think this character would be a good friend.
When returning home from his adventure in the well, Virgil meets Chet on the street and finally confronts the bully. What gives Virgil the power to stand up to Chet? What was Chet’s reaction when Virgil tells him, “Call me that again, and you’ll regret it.” (p. 301)
A coincidence is “a sequence of events that although accidental seems to have been planned or arranged.” (American Heritage Dictionary) What is a coincidence that caught your attention as you read the book? Share possible logical explanations of this incident. What is your opinion of the phrase, “There are no coincidences,” that is repeated throughout the book?
Share the reason that you think the author gives Valencia the last chapter in the book to narrate? Who is given the last word in the book? Explain why this text on Valencia’s phone is so significant?
Agree or disagree — Hello, Universe is a good title for the book. Support your opinion with examples from the book.
Book Talk Teasers:
Play the book trailer for Hello, Universe, found on the Texas Bluebonnet Award YouTube channel:
Explore the meanings of the words “fate” and “destiny” with the students. Then listen to Erin Entrada Kelly introduce Hello, Universe on the HarperKids YouTube channel:
Realistic fiction — multiple perspectives
Buyea, Rob. Because of Mr. Terupt. Seven fifth-graders at Snow Hill School in Connecticut relate how their lives are changed for the better by “rookie teacher” Mr. Terupt. (NoveList Plus)
Mass, Wendy. Every soul a star. Ally, Bree, and Jack meet at the one place the Great Eclipse can be seen in totality, each carrying the burden of different personal problems, which become dim when compared to the task they embark upon and the friendship they find. (NoveList Plus)
Palacio, R. J. Wonder. Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was not expected to survive, goes from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan, which entails enduring the taunting and fear of his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student. (NoveList Plus)
Sloan, Holly Goldberg. Counting by 7s.Twelve-year-old genius and outsider Willow Chance must figure out how to connect with other people and find a surrogate family for herself after her parents are killed in a car accident. (NoveList Plus)
Realistic fiction — bullying and bullies
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Van Draanen, Wendelin. Shredderman. Fifth-grader Nolan Byrd, tired of being called names by the class bully, has a secret identity–Shredderman! (NoveList Plus)
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Realistic fiction — ability diversity
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Lord, Cynthia. Rules. Frustrated at life with an autistic brother, twelve-year-old Catherine longs for a normal existence but her world is further complicated by a friendship with an young paraplegic. (NoveList Plus)
Weeks, Sarah. Save me a seat. Ravi has just moved to the United States from India and has always been at the top of his class; Joe has lived in the same town his whole life and has learning problems–but when their lives intersect in the first week of fifth grade they are brought together by a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and the need to take control of their lives. (NoveList Plus)
Realistic fiction — friendship
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Kelly, Erin Entrada. Hello, Universe
314 pp. Greenwillow (HarperCollins Children’s Books Group) 2017. ISBN 978-0-06-241415-1 Ebook ISBN 978-0-06-241417-5
(2) 4-6 Virgil is bullied by classmate Chet, who calls him “retardo.” Valencia feels like an outsider because she’s deaf. Kaori is a self-proclaimed psychic. When Chet drops Virgil’s backpack into an abandoned well, Virgil gets stuck trying to retrieve it; Kaori and Valencia investigate Virgil’s whereabouts. Told in alternating perspectives of the three kid-heroes and one villain, the children’s inner lives are distinctive. Reprinted fromThe Horn Book Guide Excerpt in Magazine by permission of Horn Book, Inc.
Kelly, Erin Entrada and illustrated by Isabel Roxas. Hello, Universe. Greenwillow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2017. School Library Journal (January 1, 2017)
Gr 3-7-The universe comes together unexpectedly when a unique set of circumstances cause four tweens to cross paths. Central to the story is Virgil, an 11-year-old Filipino American whose grandmother, Lola, helps him to come out of his shell and face the world. When Virgil and his pet guinea pig, Gulliver, end up trapped in a well in the woods at the hands of a bully, Chet, it is up to the stars to align before it’s too late. Coming together like spokes on a wheel, everyone converges in the woods-Valencia, a Deaf girl on whom Virgil has a crush; Kaori, an adolescent fortune-teller and free spirit; Kaori’s sister, Gen, her jump-roping apprentice; a feral dog Valencia has befriended; and a snake, which is the only thing Chet fears. Unlikely friendships are formed and heroism abounds as the group of young people try to find their way in the world. Plucky protagonists and a deftly woven story will appeal to anyone who has ever felt a bit lost in the universe. VERDICT Readers across the board will flock to this book that has something for nearly everyone-humor, bullying, self-acceptance, cross-generational relationships, and a smartly fateful ending.-Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Reprinted with permission from School Library Journal , 2017.
Kelly, Erin Entrada and illustrated by Isabel Roxas. Hello, Universe. Greenwillow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2017. Booklist starred (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8)
Grades 3-6. Four middle-schoolers’ fates intertwine one summer in Kelly’s (The Land of Forgotten Girls, 2016) touching tale of friendship. Scrawny, taciturn Virgil Salinas can generally be found caring for his guinea pig and avoiding neighborhood bully Chet Bullens. The only people he feels comfortable around are his lola (his Filipino grandmother) and his Japanese American friend Kaori, who fancies herself a psychic. Kaori’s quirky self-confidence is a foil to Virgil’s insecurities, and when he comes to her for help befriending a girl in his class, Valencia Somerset, she can’t wait to consult her star chart. For her own part, Valencia struggles with nightmares after being rejected by her best friend, and the fact that she’s deaf hasn’t made finding new friends easy. When she spots Kaori’s “business card” on a notice board, she makes an appointment to discuss her troubling dreams. That very day, Virgil goes missing, and Valencia joins Kaori’s search for the boy. Chapters alternate between the four kids’ perspectives, infusing the story with their unique interests, backgrounds, beliefs, and doubts. Lola’s hilariously grim Filipino folk stories weave in and out of Virgil’s mind, ultimately giving him the courage to stand up for himself; and rather than holding her back, Valencia’s deafness heightens her perceptiveness. Readers will be instantly engrossed in this relatable neighborhood adventure and its eclectic cast of misfits. Used with the permission of Booklist https://www.booklistonline.com/