A few months older and proud owner of Einstein, a small, green anole, the eponymous budding scientist of Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything In It, winner of the 2007 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award, returns to grapple with new challenges in this likable sequel.
Last seen, Brendan had reclaimed his estranged grandfather, helping to heal the longstanding family rift arising from his parents’ interracial marriage. Entering middle school, Brendan’s goals are more universal and more daunting: negotiating puberty and fitting in with his peers. Complicating matters is his equally science-minded classmate Morgan, who has a major crush on him. Paired with her for a science project (cow poop is central), Brendan worries their friendship will alienate his guy friends. His parents have their own obsessions—gaining official approval to adopt a baby (Mom) and carving time from work to earn a college degree (Dad). Middle schoolers and science projects make for enjoyably combustible fiction, as Greg Leitich Smith demonstrated in Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (2003). Underlying Frazier’s light and humorous tone lies a serious question science can’t answer: Why does Dad focus only Brendan’s martial-arts training, ignoring his scientific achievements? The role of racism and family history is key in shaping these multifaceted characters, but it is largely left for readers to infer.Events may be less dramatic than realistically nuanced, and pacing is relaxed, but appealing Brendan should keep readers fully engaged. (science notes on biomass, anoles) (Fiction. 9-12)