Heavy Medal Finalist – Hello, Universe
(Titles on our short list will be included in the live Mock Newbery in Oakland.)
Before I go any further, I just want to give everyone a heads-up that I am writing this from Australia, where I am visiting for a couple of weeks. This just means that, depending on where you are, I am likely awake while you are sleeping and sleeping while you are awake, so may not be here to respond to comments rapidly. That’s the case for my next four posts. I’ll be back home just a couple of days before our Mock Newbery discussion in Oakland and can’t wait to see some of you there!
In the meantime, let me introduce Helle Universe to get our discussion going.
One of the strengths of Hello, Universe is the successful crafting of four interwoven voices and stories that didn’t feel forced. Each voice felt distinct and authentic. The use of first person for Valencia only gives the audience a deep insight into her inner thoughts and also made the writing more dynamic and interesting.
Kelly crafts a story that is quiet, emotional, and compelling and that runs the risk of being overly sentimental or, for lack of a better word, twee, but manages to stay on the right side of that line. She takes commonplace children’s problems and brings them to an extreme in a plot that is engrossing, suspensful, at times humorous, and ultimately satisfying. I think the uniqueness of these characters is wonderful and the actual writing, sentence by sentence, is superb.
I have heard concerns about Chet’s character and its one dimensionality and I do echo those concerns a bit. I think he is the weak link of the four voices and is a bit unbelievable. At the same time I wonder if he is maybe just right for children, the intended audience, who imagine bullies just as Chet actually is. Is this a fair treatment, and is it respectful of the child audience?
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Sharon McKellar
Sharon McKellar is the Supervising Librarian for Teen Services at the Oakland Public Library in California. She has served on the Rainbow List Committee, the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, and the 2015 Caldecott Committee. You can reach her at email@example.com.
SLJ Blog Network