Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in It

Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in It

4.4 12
by Sundee T. Frazier

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Winner of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award, the story of a biracial boy who is into science and discovers that he shares this passion with a grandfather he never knew.

Ten-year-old Tae Kwon Do blue belt and budding rock hound Brendan Buckley keeps a CONFIDENTIAL notebook for his top-secret discoveries. And he's found


Winner of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award, the story of a biracial boy who is into science and discovers that he shares this passion with a grandfather he never knew.

Ten-year-old Tae Kwon Do blue belt and budding rock hound Brendan Buckley keeps a CONFIDENTIAL notebook for his top-secret discoveries. And he's found something totally top secret. The grandpa he's never met, whoM his mom refuses to see or even talk about, is an expert mineral collector, and he lives nearby! Brendan sneaks off to visit his grandpa Ed DeBose, whose skin is pink, not brown like Brendan's, his dad's, and the late Grampa Clem's. Brendan sets out to find the reason behind Ed's absence, but what he discovers can't be explained by science, and now he wishes he'd never found Ed at all. . . .
An NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
A Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year
Winner of a Horace Mann Upstanders Honor Award for Children's Literature
"Frazier writes affectingly about what being biracial means in twenty-first century America."—School Library Journal
"Brendan is an appealing character with a sense of honor. . . . A good, accessible selection to inspire discussion of racism and prejudice."—Kirkus Reviews
"Frazier delivers her messages without using an overly heavy hand. Brendan is a real kid with a passion for science and also a willingness to push his parents' rules."—Booklist

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Ten-year-old Brendan is a budding scientist and has decided to start collecting rocks during the summer. For the most part, he is comfortable in his milk-chocolate colored skin. He has a good pal, and he knows what he wants to do. He can ignore the racist taunts of a few older kids. He can ignore it, that is, until he meets his long absent grandfather who runs the local rock hound club. Now Brendan has to find out why his grandfather lives so close, and yet has never been to his house. It is a book of complexity about society and multi-racial families. Brendan has a white mother and black father. He has one grandmother (father’s mother) who stays close to the family. While his maternal grandfather cut himself off. The questions raised are almost as old as the rocks Brendan wants to collect, but fortunately, for Brendan, people can speak to give answers. Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
School Library Journal

Gr 4-6

Ten-year-old Brendan Buckley loves science, Tae Kwan Do, questions, and looking for answers. While visiting the local mall with his grandmother, the boy meets his estranged maternal grandfather, Ed, for the first time and begins to wonder about the rift between his mother and her father. Ed and Brendan are drawn together by a mutual interest in rock collecting and meet secretly. When Brendan's parents discover that the two are spending time together, they reveal that Ed is opposed to their biracial marriage (his mother is Caucasian and his father is African American). Brendan must come to grips with this information, how it affects his feelings towards his grandfather, and his own identity. Sundee T. Frazier's novel (Delacorte, 2007) is well-narrated by Mirron Willis who gives unique voices to all the intriguing characters. Listeners will be captivated.-Deanna Romriell, Salt Lake City Public Library, UT

Kirkus Reviews
Ten-year-old Brendan Buckley, future scientist, expects to have a busy summer, between practicing Tai Kwon Do, spending time with his parents and paternal grandmother and writing in the notebook he fills with all of his questions and their answers. Then he runs into his maternal grandfather, Ed, at a rock-and-mineral show. They've never met before, and all Brendan knows is that his mother won't talk about why. Initially unsure, Brendan decides to get to know his grandfather in secret. When they find out, his parents reveal that it is Ed's bigotry concerning mixed-race couples-Brendan's mother is white and his father is black-that has resulted in his absence. No stranger to racism, Brendan attempts to answer the question of why anyone would feel this way, as he simultaneously tries to find a way to bring his family together. Brendan is an appealing character with a sense of honor, and if the ending is a bit pat, Brendan's curiosity and intelligence compensate. A good, accessible selection to inspire discussion of racism and prejudice. (Fiction. 10-12)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

It was the first Sunday of summer break, and I was in a hurry to finish my dusting chores fast so I could call Khalfani to ride bikes. I wasn’t even thinking too hard about anything, like Dad says I do sometimes.

Well, okay, maybe I was thinking a little bit hard. About Grampa Clem and how I’m going to miss fishing with him this summer. Which made me think about the funeral and how the man in the black robe had said, “From dust we come and to dust we shall return.” And then I started looking more closely at the gray particles I was picking up with my dust rag, and I thought, What is this stuff anyway? And where does it come from? And how come it keeps coming back no matter how many times I wipe it away?

That’s when the science part of me took over.

I stopped thinking about Khalfani and riding my bike, and even Grampa Clem. And I definitely wasn’t thinking about finishing any chore. I went straight to my computer and got on the Internet, where I typed in the search question “What is dust?”

Sixty-seven million, nine hundred thousand results came up.

I had no idea there would be so much out there about dust, but that’s the thing about asking questions: They often lead to surprises, and they always lead to more questions.

I climbed our table to get a sample from the candelabra-thingy (it was the dustiest place I could think of in our house, since I never dust it), and went to my room. I set the microscope slide on my desk and pulled out the spiral notebook I keep between my bed and the wall.

Across the yellow cover, I had written in big black letters, confidential. Dad taught me how to spell it. He’s a police detective, so he knows all about confidential things. confidential says that what’s inside is important. Plus, you never know when you might discover something that really is top-secret.

I sat at my desk and flipped open the cover. The question notebook was my fifth-grade teacher’s idea, but the name for the notebook was mine: Brendan Buckley’s Book of Big Questions About Life, the Universe and Everything in It.
“Scientists,” Mr. Hammond had said at the beginning of the school year, “ask questions.”

That’s when I knew: I am a scientist. Because as far as I’m concerned, no question is unimportant, and nothing in the universe is too small to ask about.

I ran my hand across my book’s title. Summer vacation had finally arrived. That meant seventy-nine days to find answers to the questions I’d already recorded. Seventy-nine days of scientific experimentation. And seventy-nine days to mess around with Khalfani, swim in his pool and get to the next level in Tae Kwon Do. Khal and I are only five ranks away from our black belts.

The thing I wouldn’t be doing was fishing every Monday with Grampa Clem. When Grampa Clem died in April, it was sort of like having my leg taken away. You always expect it to be there, but then to one day wake up and find it gone? Suddenly everything’s different and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Now Gladys is my only grandparent, because my other grandma died right after I was born and I’ve never met my other grandpa. Mom doesn’t talk to him. Or about him, either, which makes me wonder what happened. But I guess I can’t miss someone I’ve never even known.

The one time I asked where he was, she bit on her lip, and her forehead bunched up like when she cut her thumb and had to get stitches. She just said, “Gone,” and that we’d talk about it when I was older. So that’s the One Thing I know not to ask questions about.

I turned to the front section of my notebook, which I’d titled The Questions. The back section was called What I Found Out. Under “Do centipedes really have 100 legs?”, “What’s inside a black hole?” and “Do boys fart more than girls?” I wrote my latest questions about dust.

Mr. Hammond told us that scientists’ questions compel them to find answers, and that’s how they make their discoveries. I asked Mr. Hammond what being compelled meant, and when he said it meant to have an uncontrollable urge that won’t be satisfied until you find what you’re looking for, I knew exactly what he was talking about. I get compelled all the time.

I ran to the bathroom with an eyedropper from my microscope kit and suctioned some water from the faucet. I went back to my room, squeezed a couple of drops onto the slide and pressed another slide on top. I stuck the dust under the lens.
The cool thing about my scope is that it displays whatever it’s looking at on my computer. I clicked a couple of times to open the program and up popped my dust—magnified four hundred times.

It was basically a bunch of small flakes. But flakes of what? I opened an Internet article called “Dust Creatures” and started reading.

The article said when you examine household dust under a microscope you can usually spot ant heads or other insect body parts. I had just clicked over to my microscope display to look for bug legs when a car door slammed outside.
I glanced out the window. Dad was back with my grandma, Gladys. A minute later the front door opened.

“I’m here!” Gladys shouted.

I got up to say hi because I wasn’t seeing any bug parts, and because any minute Gladys would show up in my room anyhow. Gladys doesn’t pay attention to my EXPERIMENT IN PROGRESS sign.

I stood at the top of the stairs that go down to the front door. Gladys was bent over, pulling off her shoes.

“These bad boys got to go!”

Dad tried to squeeze in behind her.
Gladys looked at him over her shoulder with her eyebrows raised. “Where’s the fire?”
Mom says that Gladys can be testy, like a bull that’s been prodded one too many times. Gladys’s nostrils were flared. I could almost see the long horns coming out the sides of her head. Dad was about to get it.

Meet the Author

SUNDEE T. FRAZIER won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award for Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in It and is the author of the highly acclaimed The Other Half of My Heart. Learn more about her and her books at

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Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in It 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My grandson is a fifth grade student. He chose this book for a book report He has been a Tae Kwon Do student for five years and was able to relate to so much in the book. We read the book together.It grabs your attention and you won't want to put it down. We will definitely read other books by this author. Mary W.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Brendan Buckley is into Tae Kwon Do and studying rocks. He would love to be a scientist and faithfully keeps a notebook with important questions and findings. During the summer, Brendan plans on becoming a rock collector. And he is trying to adjust to losing his best fishing buddy, Grandpa Clem.

When looking at a mineral and gemstone exhibit, he meets a man who has awesome rocks and who knows a TON about rocks and minerals. His Grandma Gladys sees the man and yanks Brendan away. Well, what are the odds of this? That man was actually his other grandpa. A man he had never met. And is told to never see again.

Although Brendan doesn't really want to disobey his parents, he wants to know this mystery man. Maybe he could help fill the void left by Grandpa Clem's death. Maybe this other grandpa could teach him about rocks. Maybe he could get to know him and find out why his mom has nothing to do with him.

As Brendan sets out to get to know this man, he has no idea what kind of trouble he may be stirring up.

Sundee T. Frazier has created a likable young boy with unique interests and love for his family. Readers will enjoy his adventures and see past generations with new awareness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I finished Brendan Buckley's Universe with the wish that I could meet this boy in person. His journey to discovery and forgiveness is inspiring and moving. Brendan faces hard issues of family, prejudice, and the sometimes difficult process of growing up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a captivating book with a wonderful story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kiss your hand then post this on three other books then look under your pillow
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVE this book soooooo much
Jamil Rehman More than 1 year ago
this book was pretty good.some of it didn't make sense though.i'd still recommend it.