Hello, Universe Discussion Questions

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Would you like to teach your 4th through 8th grade students about 'Hello, Universe' by Erin Entrada Kelly? They will work as individuals to evaluate the deeper meanings that are interwoven through a story of determination.

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

It was Dante who once wrote 'do not be afraid, our fate cannot be taken from us, it is a gift.' However, in Hello, Universe, Virgil Salinas must indeed deal with his many fears as destiny embarks him on a perilous fated journey of self-discovery. Your older elementary school and middle school students will benefit from these discussion questions, as they analyze the complex issues entangled within what at first appears to be a simple story of friendship and resoluteness.

Questions About the Plot

Chapters 1-14

  • At the beginning of the story, how would you evaluate the conversation between Virgil and his grandmother Lola?
  • How would you depict Virgil's encounter at the Super Saver with the two people that often occupied his mind?
  • What did Virgil's grandmother warn him about the color red, and how did her premonition come into play later in the tale?

Chapters 15-28

  • What did Chet throw down the well, and what did Virgil do about the situation?
  • Why did Valencia decide to visit Kaori's home?
  • What stories did Ruby tell to Virgil while he was down in the well?

Chapters 29-42

  • What decisions resulted from the girls' earlier visit to Virgil's home?
  • What happened to Chet when he encountered a snake out in the woods, and how did the girls react to his handling of the situation?
  • What three promises did Virgil make to himself while he was in his predicament, and how did he address those three issues near the end of the story?

Questions About the Themes

  • How would you juxtapose the fact that Virgil had an unathletic physique but the near-flawless hands of a pianist, while his brothers had athletic physiques but misshapen hands?
  • How would you describe the relationship between Chet Bullens and his stern father? How did they interact at the grocery store? How did they mistreat the cashier and speak about other people?
  • How would you evaluate the fact Virgil's nickname was 'Turtle' (he tended to hide in his shell), and that even adults called him by that disparaging name?
  • How would you define the term 'Bayani' (inner hero) that Virgil Salinas was trying to discover within himself?
  • How do you compare and contrast Valencia's cleverness and stubbornness, as opposed to Virgil's shyness and enigmatic personality?
  • How would you compare and contrast the way fate (determinism) and choice (free will) weaved throughout the storyline?
  • What did Ruby's voice represent in the story to Virgil? In what ways did he follow the advice, and in what ways did he ignore the advice?
  • How would you analyze when Ruby repeatedly told Virgil to 'never give up', even in dire situations?
  • How does the fact that the four main characters are neither friends nor attend the same school add to the mystery and intrigue of the story?
  • How would you compare and contrast the special bond that Virgil had with his grandmother Lola, versus the relationships he had with his other family members?
  • How did Virgil feel about all of his grandmother's various fables in which children were eaten as punishment?

Questions About Symbols

  • What did the well represent in the story?
  • How would you compare and contrast the periods of darkness and light experienced by Virgil and Gulliver while in the well?
  • What did the jump rope represent, and why did Valencia like the idea that it would remain where it was for many years?
  • What did the fruits and vegetables repeatedly mentioned in the story represent?
  • What did the constellations represent to Kaori's belief that she had psychic powers?

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