Middle Grade Book Review: Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It

nullAuthor Sundee T. Frazier’s debut novel Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything In It is the tale of a bi-racial boy in search of answers.  Brendan is a 10 year old scientist who has questions about everything in his universe.  Thanks to his science teacher Mr. Harrison, Brendan has learned the scientific method and seeks to apply it to a family situation that he stumbles upon one day at the mall with his grandmother Gladys.

A precocious 10 year old, Brendan is happy that summer vacation has arrived and plans to use the remaining seventy-nine days of his vacation to the fullest.  He has big plans to celebrate his eleventh birthday, advance to the next level in Tae Kwon Do, explore his universe, begin a rock collection, and engage in mischief with best friend Khalfani.

Still grieving the recent death of his grandfather, Brendan only knows one other grandparent, Gladys.  Before Brendan was born, his Caucasian mother was shunned by her father for marrying an African American.  Brendan’s mother Katherine has remained very vague about her family and has no ties to either of them.  Until recently, Brendan accepted that aspect of his family.

Meeting his mother’s father by accident due to a shared bond over rocks and minerals causes Brendan’s curiosity to go beyond exploring answers to questions like, “Do boys fart more than girls?” to seeking truths about people with questions like, ” Why are white people so mean to Black people?”  In his Book of Questions, Brandon conducts research to the questions that enter his mind and then works hard to find the answers.

The strengths of this book is that it takes a look at being bi-racial, as a child, within a family that didn’t totally embrace an interracial marriage.  Last month, I read and reviewed Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Sherri L. Smith which also features the story of a bi-racial child who was born to an African American mother and Chinese father.  Frazier’s story of Brendan Buckley shows what happens when one side of the family doesn’t embrace the basic element of family — love no matter what the race of the two people who are joining the families together — and how that can damage the family structure.

The story of Brendan Buckley shines because it is more than just a story of a boy coming to grips with who he is and how two cultures and racial identities play a part into his overall identity.  Frazier’s use of the scientific method, Brendan’s fascination with rocks and minerals are layered in to show other meanings of family and love.  Add to that the principles that Brendan has learned through Tae Kwon Do classes and Frazier’s story teaches the reader through Brendan’s eyes about understanding race, understanding family, and ultimately, understanding life.

Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It is not just a story for boys, bi-racial kids, rock and mineral enthusiasts, it’s a story for those who are curious about the world around them and want to seek to understand it better.  Grab a copy and soak up what Brendan is curious about.  I learned a lot about dust, rocks, minerals, and family.

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