Book Review: Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything In It by Sundee T. Frazier

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brendanbuckley.jpgI approached Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything In It by Sundee T. Frazier with some trepidation, as I'm not a big fan of books where the main character's race is the central issue. Normally, I would rather see a more nuanced approach to the subject of race, where a character's appearance or cultural difference affects multiple facets of the story without being the story itself (like in real life). However, I was pleasantly surprised at Sundee Frazier's refreshing ability to approach Brendan Buckley's biracial background directly, while still weaving a fun story with great characters that charmed and touched me emotionally.

Brendan Buckley is your average ten-year-old kid who fancies himself a scientist, and looks forward to a summer full of bicycle riding, Tae Kwan Do, and figuring out the answers to his Big Questions. He is also half black and half white, and while he has always been close with his black grandparents, he has never even met his white grandparents. Until one day, when he discovers that his Grandpa Ed lives nearby and begins to visit him secretly.

It is around the same time that Brendan also encounters some bullies who seem to find his dark skin reason enough to pick on him. Which leads him to some of his biggest questions ever. My favorite scenes in the book are those in which Brendan and his parents work through these questions, and how each of Brendan's parents interpret racism in a way that is both truthful yet gentle. Their love for each other and for Brendan is clear, and each tries to explain hatred in others without resorting to hatred of their own.

As it turns out, Grandpa Ed has his own issues with race. But Frazier works with Ed's prejudices beautifully, without making him out to be a bad guy or a good guy, but genuinely conflicted over his own beliefs and the consequences of them. And there is something so refreshing about Brendan's straightforward, scientific nature that allows him to, after gathering up his courage, ask his grandfather right out, "You mean you didn't want my mom to marry my dad because he's black." Ed doesn't have a pat answer, and it's clear he doesn't understand it himself, nor are there any easy answers when it comes to prejudice.

Frazier has wonderfully woven a summer full of fun, adventure, learning, and triumphs with a refreshing and sensitive look at racism and multiracial families. I would highly recommend Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything In It for all readers for a nuanced and deeper understanding of these issues.

Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything In It by Sundee T. Frazier


Thank you for your thoughtful review and kind recommendation of the book. I'm glad the story and Brendan ultimately won you over!

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Renee Ting is the President and Publisher of Shen's Books. She is the author of The Prince's Diary and the blog, Renee's Book of the Day.

Emily Jiang is a writer of children's and YA literature. She also blogs at TLeaf Readings.

Shen’s Books is a publisher of multicultural children’s literature that emphasizes cultural diversity and tolerance, with a focus on introducing children to the cultures of Asia.

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