Books

Filipino-American Author Erin Entrada Kelly Is First to Win Prestigious Children's Book Award

Judges say it's a mix of Filipino folklore and real life.
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It is often our adventures with our closest childhood friends that we remember when we grow up. For children's book writer Erin Entrada Kelly, those memories are what inspired her to create Hello, Universe—for which she was awarded the Newbery Medal on February 12.

Raised in Louisiana and based in Philadelphia, Kelly identifies herself as a Filipino-American whose Visayan mother lives in Cebu. This is why Filipino culture is very much embedded in her creations, and Hello, Universe is no different. "Filipino folklore and real life converge at the bottom of a well," the judges said in an interview with NPR.org.

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Now her third book, Hello, Universe follows the lives of middle-school students and their unexpected encounters. There's Valencia Somerset, a hearing-impaired child who is smart and brave but lonely; Kaori Tanaka who is a self-proclaimed psychic and her little sister Gen; and Chet Bullens who's passionate about basketball. One day, Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil Salinas—who is shy and kindhearted—at the bottom of a well. It is up to the three to save her and teach the bully a lesson. Ultimately, "Hello, Universe is about faith, destiny, and friendship," the author says. Fellow Filipina Isabel Roxas, a Brooklyn-based artist, turned this exciting story into a visual feast fit for kids and kids-at-heart.

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The Newbery Medal was named for 18th Century British bookseller John Newbery. It is a recognition awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to authors for distinguished contributions to American literature for children.

This story originally appeared on Spot.ph.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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