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Written by Sundee T. FrazierAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Sundee T. Frazier


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On Sale: November 13, 2007
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89057-4
Published by : Delacorte Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books

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On Sale: July 15, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7393-7911-0
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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 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

From the Hardcover edition.


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.

From the Hardcover edition.
Sundee T. Frazier

About Sundee T. Frazier

Sundee T. Frazier - Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in It
In the fall of 2006, I was searching for a story idea when my editor shared a news item with me. Babies born to a mixed-race couple were getting press around the world because one was "black" and the other "white."

My editor wondered aloud what these girls' lives might be like when they were ten. The question caught my attention, and Minni and Keira King were born.

In a way, Minni and Keira represent the dual nature of my own heart, personality, and experience. But the girls also represent "sisters" everywhere – struggling to maintain solidarity in the face of a myriad of modern-day pressures.

The seed of the story idea came from a news article about actual twins, but of course The Other Half of My Heart was drawn completely from my own psyche and experience.

Questions of race and racial definitions have always been a part my life, from the first time an adult told me to check "black" on a school form because my father was black, to the surprised looks I get from people just discovering the truth behind my tan complexion.

As a biracial African-American who has often been mistaken as white, and as a biracial African-American who was often the only kid of color in her classes (albeit a light tan color!), I drew from both sides of my experience to create Minni's and Keira's characters.

Writing this story reinforced for me the truth that when it comes to standing up for what's right, or having a beautiful heart, it doesn't matter what color your skin is. Sisters (and brothers) come in all colors.

Sundee T. Frazier is also the author of Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in It, for which she received the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award. As a teen, she was crowned Miss Palouse Empire and was first runner-up in the Washington State Junior Miss Program (not pageant). Learn more about her and her books at www.sundeefrazier.com.


WINNER 2008 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award
WINNER 2007 NCSS/CBC Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide


Ten-year-old Brendan Buckley has the mind of a scientist, but during one summer vacation he uncovers a dark family secret, and learns that science cannot explain or solve matters of the heart.

Brendan Buckley, a biracial ten-year-old, is a budding scientist and a Tae Kwon Do blue belt. He keeps a confidential notebook for his top-secret scientific discoveries, but so far the notebook contains more questions than answers. On a trip to the mall with Gladys, his recently widowed paternal grandmother, Brendan stumbles upon an exhibit of rocks and minerals sponsored by the Puyallup Rock Club. He is immediately interested, but Gladys recognizes the man behind the exhibit and briskly snatches Brendan away. He has questions, but Gladys gives no answers. This fuels Brendan’s curiosity, and he sets out on a secret mission that leads him to Ed DeBose, the white grandpa he has never met. Brendan calls upon his scientific problem-solving ability to find out the reason behind his grandpa’s absence, and why his mother refuses to see or talk to him. What Brendan discovers is the toughest truth of all—science cannot explain matters of the heart.

Grades 4–7

Thematic Connections
Family/Biracial Family • Intergenerational Relationships • Honesty & Truth • Secrets • Forgiveness • Prejudice & Bigotry


Sundee T. Frazier, like Brendan Buckley, is proud to come from both black and white people. She is the author of Check All That Apply: Finding Wholeness as a Multiracial Person, and she especially wants to see young people grow up feeling good about their heritage and identity. She earned an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College. Like Brendan, Sundee spent her childhood searching for rocks and minerals. She lives in Seattle. For more information about the author, visit www.sundeefrazier.com.


Invite a counselor or social worker to speak to the class about the “tough” issues that racially mixed families encounter in our society. Then have students make a list of five solutions to the problem of racial and cultural prejudices. Ask students to share their list in class.

Have students read The Search for Belle Prater by Ruth White. Ask them to think about how Woodrow’s search for his mother is similar to Brendan’s search for his grandpa. Then have them write 10 questions they would ask both main characters for an article called “Matters of the Heart.” Instruct students to write an opening paragraph for the article.


Questions for Group Discussion

Ask students to discuss Brendan’s relationship with his parents. How does Brendan describe each person’s role in his family? Brendan is an only child. Discuss how Brendan’s life might be different if he had a sibling. How is Khalfani a “surrogate” brother? Engage the class in a conversation about how Mrs. Buckley’s wounded relationship with her father shapes the way she deals with Brendan. Which family member has the most to gain from Brendan’s discovery?

Ask students to describe Brendan’s relationship with Grandpa Clem. How does Brendan deal with Grandpa Clem’s death? Discuss how missing Grandpa Clem makes Brendan question the absence of his other grandpa. Brendan sets out on a journey to find Grandpa DeBose. Discuss how his grandpa reacts to him when they come face to face. What does Brendan want from his grandpa? How does their relationship grow as the novel progresses? Debate whether Brendan can expect the same type of relationship with Grandpa DeBose that he had with Grandpa Clem.

Brendan says, “Truth is what scientists are always searching for.” (p. 12) What is the truth that Brendan is searching for? Discuss why it took so long for his parents to be honest with him about the absence of Grandpa DeBose. What Brendan likes most about Gladys is that she always tells the truth. Discuss Gladys’s reaction when she and Brendan see Ed DeBose at the mall. How does her reaction lead Brendan toward his search for truth? Discuss how Brendan’s problemsolving ability helps him untangle the truth? Explain Brendan’s ethical dilemma when he earns the purple belt in Tae Kwon Do. How does this achievement make him rethink the importance of the truth?

Engage the class in a discussion about the relationship between having secrets and being truthful. Ask them to define the term dark secret. How is Ed DeBose a dark secret in the Buckley family? Why does Brendan keep his search for his grandpa a secret from his parents? Every scientist needs a sidekick, or an assistant. How does Khalfani fulfill this role in Brendan’s “top secret” journey? At what point is Brendan’s secret revealed? Explain his mother’s confession, “Maybe keeping you from my father was my way to get back at him.” (p. 179)

Brendan takes a message from a fortune cookie that reads, “The one who forgives ends the argument.” (p. 113) Why does Brendan’s mother feel that her father should be the one to fix their relationship? Explain the symbolism of the agate that Ed gives to Brendan. Why does Ed give Brendan the “Welcome Baby Boy” card? How do Ed’s gifts make Brendan understand that he should heed the advice of the fortune cookie and forgive his grandpa?

Grandpa Clem once told Brendan that “God made people different colors to test us—and we’d been failing ever since.” (p. 42) What is the test? Describe society’s failure. Discuss how Brendan is the target of such a test. Discuss how prejudices are developed. Brendan overhears a little girl say that his family “doesn’t match.” (p. 36) How might the child’s mother explain Brendan’s racially mixed family without prejudice? Brendan learned from Grandpa Clem that looking into a person’s eyes reveals the soul of the person. What does Brendan learn about the soul of Ed DeBose? What might Ed DeBose’s eyes reveal at the end of the novel?



Grandpa DeBose gives Brendan a “Welcome Baby Boy” card that his grandmother had intended to send when Brendan was born. Write a poem titled “Welcome Baby Boy” that Ed DeBose might write for Brendan that symbolizes forgiveness and an open heart. The five tenets of Tae Kwon Do are courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit. Ask students to write a personal essay that Brendan might write that reveals how these tenets have shaped his character. Which tenet might Brendan say is his weakest? Which is his strongest?

Brendan is a science enthusiast, but he doesn’t discover geology until he meets Ed DeBose. Ask students to use books in the library or internet resources such as library.thinkquest.org/J002289/fact.html to find fascinating facts about rocks and minerals. Divide the class into small groups and instruct them to develop questions and answers for a Jeopardy game focused on geology. After each group shares their questions, ask the class to place the questions into appropriate categories.

Refer students to page 74 of the novel and ask them to reread the passage where Brendan says that slate reminds him Grandpa Clem. Have students identify a rock or mineral from their research that might best describe each of the principal characters in the novel. Ask them to write characters sketches, taking language from the properties and characteristics of the rocks they have chosen.

Display a map of the United States and ask students to divide the country into four sections. Ask each student to select one section of the country and find out the rocks and minerals found in that area. Instruct students to plan a geological trip for Brendan and his grandpa. Have them make a travel brochure that includes a day-by-day itinerary with specific emphasis on geological digs and the rocks and minerals they can expect to find.

Have students read about National Grandparents Day on the following Web site: www.grandparents-day.com. Then have them make a Grandparents Day card that Brendan might give to Grandpa Ed.

Brendan has a scientific mind, and has recently developed an interest in geology. Ask students to research the many different career paths for geologists. One excellent internet resource is geology.com/jobs.htm. Suggest that they search for colleges and universities in their state that offer majors in geology.


The vocabulary in the novel isn’t difficult, but students should be encouraged to jot down unfamiliar words and try to define them using clues from the context of the story.

Such words may include:
p. 7 humerus
p. 15 refraction
p. 25 catapult
p. 27 trajectory
p. 59 hypothesis
p. 82 prospector
p. 91 expedition
p. 125 Pangaea


A Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent

An NCSS–CBC Notable Children’s Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies

A Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year with Outstanding Merit


Jefferson’s Children
Shannon Lanier & Jane Feldman
Family • Secrets • Prejudice
Grades 5 up
Random House PB: 978-0-375-82168-4

Half and Half
Lensey Namioka
Grades 4–7
Yearling PB: 978-0-440-41890-0

The Book of One Hundred Truths
Julie Schumacher
Honesty • Intergenerational Relationships • Secrets
Grades 4–7
Yearling PB: 978-0-440-42085-9
Delacorte Press HC: 978-0-385-73290-1
GLB: 978-0-385-90311-0

Belle Prater’s Boy
Ruth White
Intergenerational Relationships • Secrets
Grades 4–7
Yearling PB: 978-0-440-41372-1

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