“It’s not being brave if you aren’t scared,” Ruby CITATION Eri17 l 1033 (Kelly)(p. 201) inspiration to Virgil in Erin Entrada Kelly’s “Hello, Universe.” In the story, three sixth graders form an unlikely friendship after a bully’s heartless act disrupts the universe bringing them together as their paths collide.
The protagonist in the story, a shy 11-year-old Virgil, struggles in school and making friends while spending his free time with his guinea pig, Gulliver. Kaori a self-proclaimed psychic and her partner in crime little sister, Gen.
Valencia, Virgil’s classmate that is near deaf seeks out Kaori’s psychic services to help with her recurring nightmare’s that turned into a recruitment of Valencia’s help to rescue Virgil who is trapped in a well.
The bully, Chet, stops Virgil in the woods on his way to Kaori’s for his appointment. Chet “The Bull,” throws his backpack containing Gulliver his pet guinea pig, into a well to which Virgil attempts to rescue him and ends up stuck in the well.
Kaori’s waits for Virgil and when he doesn’t arrive by the time her next appointment began with Valencia; she knew something was wrong.
The girl’s set out to find Virgil and help rescue him from the well. Through the strength and support of his Lola (grandmother), he gains personal growth. Lola’s stories and saying through his life gave him what he needed to push on. In “Hello, Universe,” Erin Estrada Kelly uses unique attributes of four compelling characters as a unifying device with inventive plot, point of view, and subtle foreshadowing to convey the message of finding courage resulting in resilience and self-acceptance.
The author uses Virgil’s lie that he is a grand failure to give the reader the inventive plot needed for him to overcome it by the end of the story. The plot problem is that of what Virgil wants and what he needs to change in order to achieve the plot goal. The hook with the inciting incident begins on page 2,
“All things considered, he should have been happy on the last day of school. The year was over. He should have been skipping home, ready to tackle the bright summer ahead. Instead he walked through the front door like a defeated athlete head low, shoulders hunched, a sack of disappointment sitting on his chest like an anvil. Because today, it was official: he was a Grand Failure.” CITATION Eri17 l 1033 (Kelly)(p. 2)
afternoon if thats ok
The key event that sets the story in motion happens on page 18 when Virgil texts Kaori for help with his Grand Failure.
First major event begins in chapter 16 that causes a strong reaction in the story for Virgil. He encounters Chet, the neighborhood bully who tosses Virgil’s backpack that contained his pet guinea pig, Gulliver deep into a well. With his best friend trapped down in the well, Virgil is kept from the plot goal of meeting with Kaori.
Where she could perform the ceremony that will bring him and Valencia together so he can say hello to overcome his grand failure. The universe causes a collision of all the characters. Virgil also had a fear of the dark which heightens his fear when he thinks of Gulliver in the well.
“Virgil’s heart thundered in his ears. A tight knot collected in his chest and rose, rose, rose until it pushed its way to his eyes, which pooled with tears. “Gulliver?” he said. The inky blackness gaped up at him, like the throat of a hungry beast. It smelled musty and dank and deathly. But Gulliver was down there. He couldn’t leave Gulliver-not for a second.” CITATION Eri17 l 1033 (Kelly)(p. 121)
Virgil ends up in the well while trying to rescue Gulliver. The author uses the entire book to help Virgil overcome his failures. Through small acts of courage, Virgil gains resilience and gains self-acceptance.
The author gives multiple points of view from the four main characters. The main protagonist, Virgil. Virgil, Kaori, and Chet are all in third person point of view, while the author uses first person point of view for Valencia’s character. Valencia’s character point of view begins in chapter 9, page 61. Her narrative in the story gives sense of realism to her perspective, since she is deaf. It gives sense of Valencia talking to herself in her head.
“I tap her on the shoulder so she’s facing me and say, “Can’t we get the curly kind?” The buzz of the freezers hum in my hearing aids and drowns out most of her words, but I don’t need to hear her clearly to know that she’s saying no and talking about how I can buy whatever kind of fries I want when I’m older and have my own money for groceries, blah blah blah.” CITATION Eri17 l 1033 (Kelly)(p. 62)
The author gives the reader a way to view the journey threw Valencia’s mind.
“When I glance back at Gen and Kaori, they seem confused, like they don’t know who I am all of the sudden.” CITATION Eri17 l 1033 (Kelly)(p. 261)
The structure the author gives to each character’s point of view adds the dramatic feel to help the reader form a relationship to them. Through each character’s personal journey of finding themselves.
The author gives each character an uncomplicated hurdle to overcome to gain their own identity by not becoming clich?s. Virgil being the main protagonist gives the reader the foreshadowing to understanding his fear of the dark.
“His second most confidential piece of information: he was afraid of the dark. Yes, he was eleven and shouldn’t be afraid anymore, but he couldn’t help it. Maybe it was the tales Lola told him about evil three-headed monkeys that thrived in the darkness, or her stories of bad children who were plucked up by birds in the dead of night. Darkness was a sightless beast, as far as Virgil was concerned.” CITATION Eri17 l 1033 (Kelly)(p. 44)
And again, the author places more foreshadowing of Virgil’s fear when he is by the well.
Lola warns Virgil to “beware the color red.” CITATION Eri17 l 1033 (Kelly)(p.84) Foreshadowing to the reader that something is going to happen.
The author structures the characters to foreshadow the fears that need to be overcome in order to gain the courage that helps them build resilience and self-acceptance.
In the article, “Effect of Hearing Loss on Peer Victimization in School-Age Children,” by Andrea D. Warner-Czyz, takes the reader into the psychological elements that manifest the bullying of children with disabilities mainly hearing loss. In the following paragraph from the article helps the reader connect more in depth with the book, “Hello, Universe.”
Children with disabilities differ in not only rate, but also type, of peer victimization. Children with and without disabilities both endure teasing, but teasing children with special needs often focuses on the disability itself.
Such disability-based bullying not only constitutes a personal violation but also may represent a federal civil rights violation. Children with special needs often experience verbal and indirect bullying (i.e., teasing, exclusion), possibly due to poorer communication and social skills relative to peers without special needs.
Additionally, children with disabilities frequently are less popular, have fewer friends, and struggle with loneliness, factors associated with higher rates of bullying in the general population. CITATION And18 l 1033 (Warner-Czyz)In conclusion, the author gives a wonderfully structured book about the journey of finding courage through resilience and self-acceptance.
Virgil and Valencia are both shy and attend the same resource class. Chet bullies them both and causes the climax of the plot when he throws Virgil’s backpack containing his guinea pig, Gulliver, into a well. Virgil loving his pet more then he fears the dark attempts to rescue him and becomes trapped in the dark well.
Kaori and Valencia come together to search for Virgil and find him in the well. All of the children become friends as if they were meant to be. As Virgil would believe it to by coincidence or would it be fate like his Lola tells him.
This passage from the book educates the students and opens up the discussions on learning disabilities to help them to get a better understanding of their fellow peers. The author gives multiple social, emotional and psychological developmental opportunities. In the following passage Virgil is trying to make sense in his mind if crossing paths with Valencia was fate or a coincidence.
“It was an odd sensation to be thinking of someone and have her unexpectedly appear, like thoughts come to life. It must be fate, Virgil thought. He didn’t know if he believed in fate, but it made sense. In eleven years had he seen Valencia Somerset outside of school, before today. “There are no coincidences.” “It’s like you were meant to be friends.” CITATION Eri17 l 1033 (Kelly)(p. 54-55)
The author gives the reader Virgil’s self-reflection into an internal conflict he is trying to decipher in his mind.
The author structures a few moral indifferences into the writing. It gives the reader a chance to analyze the facts of right or wrong in their way to discover the moral choice that should be made.
“I wasn’t crazy about the idea of holding something that had touched Chet’s sweat, but I’d already littered the woods with my mother’s old bowls, the least I could do was throw this atrocious object way.” CITATION Eri17 l 1033 (Kelly) CITATION Kev91 l 1033 (Henkes)(p.261)
The passage helps the students to discuss and decide if what Valencia was doing was right or wrong. She tells how she had already littered the woods bowls so why would she decide now not to make the same moral choice.
In Kevin Henkes’s, “Chrysanthemum” the author structures the setting between home and school. The main characters consist mainly of her mom and dad, Victoria, Rita, Jo and Mrs. Tinkle. The plot begins with Chrysanthemum starting her first day of Kindergarten. She is so excited and loves her unique name which was given to her by her parents. She was named after her grandmother which made her name even more beautiful to her.
The first day of school her teacher is calling out the student’s names and when she gets to her name, they begin to make fun of her and her name. This made for an awful first day for Chrysanthemum.
She tells her parents of her terrible day and they reassure her it is a beautiful name. They tell her the other children are may just be jealous of her name.
Chrysanthemum starts her second day of school ready for the day. The three children begin making fun of her again.
“She even looks like a flower.” said Victoria, as Chrysanthemum entered the playground. “Let’s pick her.” said Rita, pointing. “Let’s smell her.” said Jo. Chrysanthemum wilted. She did not think her name was absolutely perfect. She thought it was absolutely dreadful. The rest of the day was not much better. CITATION Kev91 l 1033 (Henkes)(p. 15)
The students are in music class and they teacher is named, Mrs. Twinkle. The students make fun of Chrysanthemum because the teacher gave her the part in the play of a daisy. The teacher asks them what was so funny and that’s when their whole outlook changed.
Mrs. Twinkle explained to them that her name was that of a flower and that she loved the name Chrysanthemum and wanted to name her baby girl when born that name. The children admired Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle and now Chrysanthemum for their beautiful names.
The author shows how children can be cruel over even a beautiful name that her parents gave her. The book enhances the learning experience of the readers about bullying and how different situations can have different outcomes. The more information the children have available the better understanding they can have over the situation and change their way of thinking. It helps to show them how to overcome the awful actions or words can cause a social, emotional and even low self esteem to the person at the blunt of the actions and words.
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