Sundee Frazier My Books About Me Write Me Home

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Help! I'm drowning in ruffles!
Help! I'm drowning in ruffles!

First Runner-Up, Washington State Junior Miss
First Runner-Up, Washington State Junior Miss

What is that on my head?!
What is that on my head?!

Wisdom Doll
Wisdom Doll

The Other Half of My Heart
The Other Half of My Heart
Delacorte Press/Random House, Inc., 2010

The day Minerva and Keira King were born, they made news around the world. Keira was born black like Mama, but Minni was white like Daddy. Now the twins are eleven, and while Minni knows that the four of them may look like a chessboard row walking down the street, in their own eyes, they're first and foremost the close-knit King family.

Then Grandmother Johnson calls and sweeps the twins off on a ten-day trip to the South where they will compete for the title of Miss Black Pearl Preteen of America. Minni is mortified, but Keira assures her that together they'll make it through the experience. Living with their grandmother is not easy, however, and the sisters' relationship begins to buckle under the strain.

Minni has always believed that no matter how different she and Keira look to the world, they share a bond of the heart that goes deeper. Now she'll find out if that's true.

Also See:  Excerpt from the Book  |  Behind the Story  |  Order the Book  


  • Named one of Kirkus Reviews "Best Children's Books 2010"

  • Included in the Cooperative Children's Book Center's Choices 2011 listing of best books from 2010

  • Chosen for the Best Children's Books of the Year 2011 list by the Bank Street College of Education in New York

  • Selected to the Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2011 list by the National Council for the Social Studies and the Children's Book Council

  • Nominated to the American Library Association's Notable Books discussion list for 2011

  • 2011 Skipping Stones Honor Award from Skipping Stones Multicultural Children's Magazine

  • Nominated for the Michigan Reading Association's 2012 Great Lakes Great Books award in the 6th-8th grade category

  • Nominated for the New Jersey Library Association's 2013 Garden State Book Award


     Kirkus (starred): "Funny and deeply affecting…Frazier highlights the contradictions, absurdities, humor and pain that accompany life as a mixed-race tween. Never didactic, this is the richest portrait of multiracial identity and family since Virginia Hamilton's 1976 novel Arilla Sun Down. An outstanding achievement." (May 15, 2010)

     Booklist (starred): "Not only does Frazier raise questions worth pondering, but her ability to round out each character, looking past easy explanations for attitude, is impressive. She also leavens the whole with easy humor and builds suspense over the pageant itself . . . A novel with a great deal of heart indeed . . ." (August 1, 2010)

    School Library Journal: "Frazier addresses issues facing mixed-race children with a grace and humor that keep her from being pedantic. The story is enjoyable in its own right, but will also encourage readers to rethink racial boundaries and what it means to be black or white in America." (June 2010)

    Cooperative Children's Book Center (University of Wisconsin-Madison): "Frazier takes a fearless look at the complex issues of race, identity, and prejudice beyond and within the Black community in this lively, deeply felt novel in which nothing, including love, is black-and-white." (2010)

    Audiobook Excerpt

    Bahni Turpin, whose audiobook credits include the recent bestseller The Help and Christopher Paul Curtis's The Mighty Miss Malone, did an amazing job creating voices for Minni, Keira, Grandmother Johnson, and the whole cast of diverse characters in The Other Half of My Heart. Listen to an excerpt.

    The audiobook of The Other Half of My Heart was named a "2012 Notable Children's Recording" by the ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association).

    Excerpt from the Book

    Mama put her drink on the counter and grasped the phone with her hand again. She stood silently, looking out the window over the sink. When she turned, the skin between her eyebrows was wrinkled. She pinched the bridge of her flat, triangular nose, the way she often did when talking to her mom. "We've already discussed this. I agreed to let them participate when they turn twelve. They just turned eleven." Mama reached for a cookie. Normally, Mama didn't eat junk food, but Grandmother Johnson, a large woman who liked to throw her weight around, often drove her to do things she wouldnÂ’t normally do.

    "Black Pearls of America is a fine organization. I was a part of it. Yes, I know the girls stand to gain by participating. But why—"

    Keira came running down the hall in her socks and slid into the kitchen. "Is she talking about the pageant?" she asked Minni excitedly. She'd pulled her thick, tight curls into two pompons, like Mickey Mouse ears. Afro puffs, they called them in their house.

    Minni shrugged. She hoped not. They'd been hearing about Miss Black Pearl Preteen since they were six. From Grandmother Johnson, of course – not Mama so much, although she had competed in Miss Black Pearl of America as a teenager.

    "Okay. All right. I'll think about it and get back to you tomorrow morning. Would you like to talk to the girls?" Keira and Minni shook their heads vigorously. Minni's scraggly, wavy hair, which she tended to wear in two low ponytails with wispy bangs, flickered at the corners of her eyes like flames.

    "Yes, they heard your message." Mama paused. "Don't worry. If I agree to this, and that's a big if, I'll tell them all about it." Another pause. "Oh, they'll be prepared, all right. Believe me, if there were anything I'd want, it'd be for them to be prepared. Good-bye, Mother." She turned off the phone and handed it to Keira.

    "Is it about the pageant?" Keira asked, handing the phone to Minni. Minni returned the phone to its place.

    "Mother says the Black Pearl organization is struggling financially and they may not be able to continue the preteen division of the competition after this year. She wants you to come for this summer's program so you don't have to wait until you're thirteen."

    Minni's heart sank.

    Mama muttered to Daddy, "As if that would be the worst thing in the world."

    In a flash, Keira was at Mama's side, pulling on the crook of her arm. "Can we please, Mom? Can we, can we?"

    Minni stood on Mama's other side. "What about our camping trip with the troop?" Keira may not have liked camping in general, but even she looked forward to their annual Girl Scout getaway because it meant another opportunity to earn a badge.

    "That's not until August," Mama said. "The pageant is next month."

    "But – the animal shelter! I'm volunteering there three days a week starting next month. Remember?"

    "You'd only be gone ten days," Mama said. "I'm sure the shelter would let you start when you came back."

    "But I don't want to start when I come back. I don't want to go anywhere!" Minni slumped against the counter. "Especially not to compete in a dumb pageant."

    Keira rushed to Minni and grabbed her hand. "It's not just a pageant, Skinny! It's a scholarship program. I've looked it up online. You could win money for school!"

    Minni's stomach churned at the thought of having to perform in front of hundreds of strangers. What in the world would she do for a talent? Somehow she didn't think dog impersonations would go over very well with a bunch of rich, successful people.

    She looked at Keira. "You really want to stay with Grandmother Johnson for ten whole days?"

    The last and only time they had visited North Carolina they had been six years old. Minni still remembered the sour taste of the buttermilk Grandmother Johnson made her drink when she complained of a stomachache. Minni had been sure their grandmother's awful cooking had made her sick in the first place, and she didn't understand in the least how drinking something even more awful was supposed to make her feel better.

    "As long as we're there together – yes!" Keira lowered her voice. "Come on, Minni. We won't let her get to us." She hugged herself and twirled, shouting, "We get to be in a pa-geant! We get to be in a pa-geant!" She bounced around the kitchen. The Afro puffs bounced along with her.

    Minni climbed into her chair and covered her ears.

    Mama inhaled deeply. She looked back and forth between them then blew out her breath. "I don't know. Maybe…"

    Keira hollered with glee and grabbed Daddy around the middle then scooted to Mama and hugged her, too. Minni's hands hung limply at her sides. Ten days of her summer – more like two whole weeks when you counted the preparation they'd have to do &ndash down the drain. She had thought she had a whole year to figure out how to get out of this pageant thing. Keira was the performer – the one who loved the spotlight – not her.

    "I can't!" Minni cried.

    Mama, Daddy and Keira stared from the other side of the island.

    "I can't get up in front of a bunch of strangers and talk and dance and walk around in a silly, frilly, long dress." Her stomach quivered at the thought.

    Mama put out her hand. "Come here, Little Moon."

    Minni slid off her chair and walked over. She let Mama put her arm around her. "What do you always say is the best thing about your name?"

    It was the only good thing about her name. MLK. "I share initials with one of the greatest people ever to live."

    "That's right. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And who do you say you want to be like when you grow up?"

    "Dr. King."

    "Dr. King spoke to hundreds of thousands of people, you know."

    "Not in a silly, frilly, long dress, he didn't."

    Mama and Daddy laughed.

    Minni crossed her arms. "Anyway, that's not how I want to be like him. I just mean I want to make the world a better place for everyone to live." Which, of course, meant animals, too. "That's all."

    "Oh, that's all, is it?" Mama smiled, revealing the gap between her two front teeth. Her widely spaced, round eyes were the color of root beer in a glass held up to sunlight. Tiny raised moles dotted her gingery brown cheeks. "That's enough, baby. But do you think maybe, just maybe, to accomplish your goal of a better world for all you might need to speak up occasionally? I mean, in front of other people?"

    Minni did not appreciate how Mama was taking her dreams and aspirations and twisting them into the reason she needed to compete in a stupid pageant. She looked away.

    Keira grabbed Minni's hand. "Come on, Skinny. It'll be fun."

    "It will be for you. You're a natural." Minni's eyes stung. She was going to cry. "I'll be lucky if I don't trip over my own feet!" She pulled away and fled down the hall, brushing a hot tear from her cheek.


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