In this year’s delightful Book Crush novel, Hello, Universe, by Erin Entrada Kelly, the point of view alternates between four young protagonists (Virgil, Valencia, Kaori, and Chet) to tell a sometimes funny, sometimes poignant story of harrowing adventure involving astrology, bullying, a snake bite, a lost (and found) guinea pig, a boy trapped in a well, and a triumphant coming-together of three kids whose friendship is “meant to be.”
Our twelve Badgerdog Book Crushers were keen to share their observations and ideas about Kelly’s novel. Throughout our week of reading, discussing, writing, and art-making, we explored the book through several lenses. We read:
- as detectives, following the characters’ movements through their neighborhoods, then making maps of those journeys
- as artist-poets, using scissors and glue or markers to create art and poetry from the author’s words
- as illustrator-designers, examining how the book cover advertised the themes of the novel and intrigued readers without giving too much away, then designing our own
- as astrologers, assigning character names as new “signs” with a list of their characteristics and even creating new constellations
- as writers, penning the next chapter of the book, text messages between characters, or persona pieces from a pet’s perspective
- as teacher-students, creating study aids in the guise of fun guessing games that reiterate the relationships between characters, their traits, and actions
- as observers of our own lives, taking charge of our destinies by noting how “It doesn’t take many words to turn your life around”
- and we read for fun, with our eyes closed, just listening, on the floor or under a table, just because we could
All in all, it has been an inspired week of creativity, crafting, self-direction, and exploration that transformed reading from what is a traditionally solitary and passive activity into one that was social, creative, and dynamic—a lesson that should stay with the members of this group for years to come. These projects reflect that feeling—that a book can be more than words on paper, that, in its pages, we can find lessons and friendship and our own way through the world.
Badgerdog Teaching Artist
Daniel’s Matching Game
Universe Entry # 3879
Protection Against Chet
When approaching a feral Chet, you want to make sure to bring a big dog. Big dogs scare Chet—tiny dogs will not suffice! Chet fears big, slobbery, beastly dogs. If you do not own a dog, a snake might work. After a bad encounter with snakes, we suspect that he fears them.
A great location to find Chet is his house. You may spy him shooting hoops in his driveway. He mainly stays on Elm Street, his habitat. He roams the street sometimes, and if you are really, really quiet, you can hear his dribbling. If you hear dribbling behind you, it’s probably Chet “The Bull” Bullens. He might be force to leave his territory and venture to purloin freely at the… supermarket! If found at the Super Saver, he might be in the chip aisle scouring for his father’s favorite chips, Doritos.
Weapons Against Chet
If Chet approaches in a fowl mood, your best weapons are your words. You could shame him about his irrational fear of dogs or that he never made a sports team. This will either anger him or make him go away.
Choose Your Own Character Adventure
When They Are at Virgil’s House
—an erasure poem
Giggles behind her hand,
he’s one of us—
Study Guide for Hello, Universe
Symbol Search & Erasure Poem
Falling Down the Well & Other Adventures
Mapping the Story
Valencia’s iPhone Messages
—an illuminated text
The Hello, Universe Board Game