Haverford’s Erin Entrada Kelly recently joined the ranks of some literary greats when she was honored with the Association for Library Service to Children’s 2018 John Newbery Medal. Kelly’s Hello, Universe (Greenwillow Books, 320 pages) is now in the same lofty company as classics like Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia.
“It’s one of those things you daydream about, but you don’t actually think it’s ever going to happen,” says Kelly, who teaches at Rosemont College.
Kelly’s Hello, Universe.
Kelly’s You Go First.
Aimed at children ages 8-12, Hello, Universe offers four distinct perspectives. The shy Virgil wants to befriend the deaf Valencia—only he doesn’t know how, so he seeks the help of Kaori, who has psychic powers. True to his bully archetype, Chet “pulls a prank on Virgil that causes all their universes to collide over the course of one day,” says Kelly.
Bullying and diversity are familiar topics for Kelly, who’s latest book, You Go First (Greenwillow Books, 304 pages), has similar themes. Kelly hails from Louisiana and is part Filipino. “I was one of the only kids in my school to have an immigrant parent—and I was certainly the only Filipino and/or Asian in my school,” she says. “It’s so incredibly important—especially for young people—to see themselves represented, because it validates their stories. I never saw myself in books.”
Kelly was also bullied. “I want [young readers] to see that there are other people going through the same thing they’re going through,” she says. —Lisa Dukart
Erin Entrada Kelly will be honored at this year’s Newberry Medal awards banquet on June 24 in New Orleans. Visit www.erinentradakelly.com.