Author Erin Entrada Kelly reads from her Newbery Award winning book, Hello Universe. Told from four intertwining points of view—two boys and two girls—the novel celebrates bravery, being different, and finding your inner bayani (hero).
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I’m reading from chapter 34 of “Hello Universe.” This is toward the end of the book, and Chet the bully has just been bitten by a snake.
I must admit it was a little disappointing to find out that the snake wasn’t poisonous. Not that I’d want Chet’s throat to swell up or anything. I would never wish something like that on anyone. But an arm infected with poison and a scary trip to the emergency room would have been nice. But then Chet would have a big dramatic story to tell, so maybe it was for the best. I could picture it now. “I went to the emergency room and almost died man. It was a close call for a while there. The doctor said I was lucky that I killed that Cobra when I did. Good thing I had enough strength to demolish it and throw it down that well.” Then again, he’d probably tell that story anyway. After Chet walks off I pick up the pillowcase like it’s a dirty sock. I wasn’t crazy about the idea of holding something that had touched Chet’s…After Chet walks off I pick up the pillowcase like it’s a dirty sock. 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 away. I didn’t want some squirrel family to find it or Sacred. The thought of Sacred cuddling up with something late Chet’s pillowcase just didn’t sit well with me. When I glanced back at Ghen and Kaori, they seemed confused, like they didn’t know who I am all of a sudden. “We should go into business together,” Kaori says. business together killer” he says. “What?” asked. I couldn’t have heard that, right? “We should go into business together” Kaori says again. “I know about the spiritual world, and you know about the natural world. It’s the perfect partnership. That’s probably why fate brought us together as friends.” Friends… something about the way she says it makes me feel like I found something. I know it sounds corny, but in that moment with that one word, I already feel like a different person. Is that possible? “Or it could have just been a coincidence I say.” “There are no coincidences,” Ghen and Kaori say at the same time. For some reason that makes us all laugh, and I don’t care that I’m holding Chet’s disgusting pillowcase anymore. Once we stop laughing Kaori face turned serious. “But first,” she begins, “you have to tell us the truth about something.” She and Ghen glanced at each other. Ghen is still holding my bag, so I reach for it. “Is your name really Renae?” I stand up straight as straight as I can, and put my bag on my shoulder. “No” I reply. “My name is Valencia. Valencia Somerset.” Just like a battle cry.