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Monday, April 09, 2018

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

Upside Down in the Middle of NowhereThis book is about how a friendship between shy Virgil Salinas, deaf Valencia Somerset, and star seeking Kaori Tanaka, becomes a crucial connection.  These three middle school students did not talk to each other in school - not a hi, hello, a wave, or a shrug.  But when Virgil disappears, creating an emergency situation, these students connect because they want to find and help Virgil.

Virgil is in the woods looking for special stones when Chet Bullens, the school bully, pulls a mean prank.  Chet forces him to go in a well and then puts on the lid.  At first, Virgil calms himself by pretending that he is in his room.  Then, he talks to a girl from his imagination.  When that does not work, he faces his fear of being heard by others.  He shouts just loud enough that Valencia and Kaori hear his cry for help from the bottom of the well. 

The girls find him, help him out and he goes home to his loud, outgoing family with a new strength.  Now that he has found his voice, he tells him mom that he dislikes being called "turtle."  He finally tells people how he feels about being super shy.  His parents finally understand what wonderful ideas that he has in his head. 

While this book is ideal for readers in grades three to seven, readers might also like Fish In a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  Fish In a Tree is about Ally, who has has fooled a lot of teachers into believing that she can read by distracting them with her bad behavior.  When Mr. Daniels tries to find the smart, funny girl underneath the trouble-making behavior, she learns how to ask for help with her reading disability, dyslexia.  You will tear up at the end of this wonderful story about a child who faces her fear and learns to read.  Both Ally and Virgil face their most terrifying fears.  This is perfect for readers in grades four to six. 

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