Secret Hum of a Daisy

Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer

Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), p2014, c2014

ISBN-13: 978-0-399-16393-7

Reading Level: 4.4

Interest Level: 5-8



Subject Headings

Death and Dying

Grief and Loss

Realistic Fiction


After 12-year-old Grace's mother's sudden death, Grace is forced to live with a grandmother she's never met. Then she discovers clues in a mysterious treasure hunt--one that will help her find her true home.

Twelve-year-old Grace and her mother have always been their own family, traveling from place to place like gypsies. But Grace wants to finally have a home all their own. Just when she thinks she's found it her mother says it's time to move again. Grace summons the courage to tell her mother how she really feels and will always regret that her last words to her were angry ones.

After her mother's sudden death, Grace is forced to live with a grandmother she's never met. She can't imagine her mother would want her to stay with this stranger. Then Grace finds clues in a mysterious treasure hunt, just like the ones her mother used to send her on. Maybe it is her mother, showing her the way to her true home.

Lyrical, poignant and fresh, The Secret Hum of a Daisy is a beautifully told middle grade tale with a great deal of heart.

Read Alikes:

A long way from Chicago : a novel in stories by Richard Peck

Missing May by Cynthia Rylant

Olive's ocean by Henkes, Kevin

Time to fly by Laurie Halse Anderson

The question of miracles  by Elana K Arnold

For full discussion questions, and curriculum guide go to :


Discussion Questions:


Chapters 1 to 8


  1. Do you agree with Mama, in that she and Grace do not need anyone else in their lives? Explain your answer.

  2. Identify some of the aspects of emotional support Grace might be missing by not having the consistency of family and friends around her?

  3. Consider the terms ‘independence’ and ‘interdependence.’  

  • Compare these terms. Discover ways that the two are similar.  

  • Contrast the terms. List ways that the two are different.

  • Apply the terms to the way Grace and Mama lived their lives.

  1. Imagine what moving about one’s entire life might be like.

  • List some of the benefits of this way of living. Shortcomings?

  1. Examine the reasoning behind Grace’s transient life. Tell why they lived the way that they did. | Is the ‘hum’ being referred to an actual sound or an emotional response of some sort? Explain your answer.

  2. Discuss how Lacey’s friendship balanced Grace’s pensive ways of living.

  3. Consider why Grandma’s ballet shoes had been included in Mama’s collection of treasured belongings. If Mama thought poorly of Grandma, why would she keep Grandma’s ballet slippers as a keepsake?

  4. Could there be a correlation between Mama’s method of artistic expression and the need to gather objects of the heart? Support your opinion.


Discussion Questions – Chapters 9 to 16

  1. Tell why Grace tracked mud, unscrewed light bulbs, and switched dishwashing soap for laundry detergent.

  2. Tell how Grace’s actions could be considered as cruel? Conversely, tell of ways that Grace’s behaviors can be considered to be justifiable, from her point of view.  Does Grandma deserve to be treated in this manner? How so?

  3. Explain why believing in the magic of a moment is beneficial.  Tell why believing in magic can be problematic.

  4. List ways that being a ‘thinker’ is beneficial.  Are there ways that thinking too much can be troublesome?  

  5. Mama suggests that the trick is to learn how to balance belief in magic and reality. Do you agree? How so? Tell why Grace is open to believing in magic at this point in the story.

  6. Grace states that she strongly feels Mama’s presence at this point in the story. Do you believe this to be true? Is Mama’s spirit nearby? How so?

  7. Explain how risking to develop a friendship with Jo contributed to uncovering this clue.

  8. At this point in the story, describe Grace’s change in character. What sorts of events have contributed to her change?


                   Discussion Questions – Chapters 17 to 27

  1. Consider Grace’s shadow metaphor for sadness Tell how the castaway objects personify sadness. | Could it be that Grace has experienced grief and loss long before Mama passed away? How so?

  2. Are Grace’s harsh feelings toward Grandma justified from her point of view? How so?. Do you agree with her? Tell why or why not.

  3. As a part of the Japanese culture, the crane is believed to be a mystical creature. If something is mystical, it is thought to be magical, mysterious, and spiritual. Is it possible that Mrs. Turner’s paper crane has mystical properties? How so?

  4. Tell of ways that Grace is beginning to let the curve of friendship pull her in. Compare the Brannigans’ and Mrs. Greene’s homes. How are they the same? Different?

  5. Explore the notion of collecting objects and feelings. Trace this plot thread as it presents itself throughout the story.


Discussion Questions – Chapters 28 to 34

  1. At this point of the story five weeks had passed since Grace moved to Grandma’s. Tell of the ways that Grace is beginning to become whole.

  2. Explain how Grace is learning to think less and feel more.

  3. Discuss Max’s method of coping with death and dying. Consider ways that Grace’s new classmates and community have joined together to help her cope.

  4. Relate Mama’s artwork and the need to cope with grief. Is there a correlation?

  5. List personality traits between Grace, her father, and Grandma that are similar.

  6. Identify the clues that suggest that Mama was returning home.



Horn Book Guide starred Fall 2014

Twelve-year-old Grace, mourning her mother's death, goes to live with her grandmother in Mama's hometown. Grace refuses to forgive Grandma for sending Mama away as a pregnant teen. In talking to townspeople, who help fill in gaps about her family's past, Grace finds the hope, peace, and home she's been looking for. Holczer weaves healing symbols (birds, daisies) and poetry into her lyrical text.


Kirkus Reviews April 15, 2014

In this debut novel, Holczer presents a tender, transformative exploration of family, loss and reconciliation. Grace has been moving all over California with Mama, looking for the perfect home. She is sure they have found it in Hood, so when Mama suggests they uproot, Grace puts her foot down. On that night, Mama dies. Now Grace is living with her estranged Grandma--the very same woman who sent Mama away when shewas pregnantwith Grace. Grace is determined to make life impossible so Grandma will send her away, too. Grace's voice is smart and observant; her sadness is palpable. Despite her resistance, Grace is assisted through her grief by a cast of colorful, original characters, including her Grandma, who reminds Grace in many ways of Mama. And Grandma, just like Mama always did whenever they moved to a new town, has set up a treasure hunt for Grace in hopes of leading her, and welcoming her, home. The phrasing and the images are beautiful and rich. If the pace begins to lag a bit, young readers invested in the emotional journey will not mind. Grace's surprising discoveries about herself, her family, and her friends, and her struggles with sorrow and forgiveness, are engrossing. (Fiction. 10-14)


Publishers Weekly February 24, 2014

In a lovely and captivating debut, Holczer crafts a tender story of an orphaned girl left with a grandmother she resents in a town that holds the secrets of her family's past. Twelve-year-old Grace is no stranger to new places: her wayward, artistic mother seemed to uproot them every few months without explanation. After Grace's mother dies in a drowning accident, Grace is expected to move in with a grandmother she doesn't know or trust, as she struggles to understand the loss of her mother, discover her family's history, and follow a trail of clues she's certain her mother left for her. Holczer writes with depth, heart, and a poetic lilt ("I shivered in my sleeping bag, feeling the chill of the river, and wondered if my dreams were bringing me one piece of Mama's death at a time"), making readers feel the same longing ache as Grace. Despite a lack of suspenseful or action-packed scenes, Grace's story and Holczer's nuanced characters engage from beginning to end. Ages 10-up. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


School Library Journal May 1, 2014

Gr 6-8-Holczer writes about the common theme of loss, but creates quite an uncommon character who must deal with the sudden death of her mother, and moving in with a grandmother she has never met. Grace's mother leads them on a nomadic life of moving from one place to another, always searching for just the right home, until her untimely death. Grace must then find a way to get to know and forgive her grandmother who has always been a stranger in her life. She soon discovers that her mother has left her one more treasure hunt. The clues take her deep inside her family's past and unlock memories that finally give her the stability and roots she has always been craving. Holczer expertly crafts the characters and dialogue to create a story readers will identify with, and thoroughly enjoy. The undercurrent theme of loss is balanced well with humor and an authentic protagonist. More than simply a book about grief and the death of a parent, Grace's story is about the search for identity. An essential purchase for middle-grade collections.-April Sanders, Spring Hill College, Mobile, AL (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Author: Tracy Holczer

Tracy Holczer is the author of The Secret Hum of a Daisy (Putnam Juvenile), for middle grade readers. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Los Angeles, where she writes full time.

This is her debut novel.  

The Sum of Our Parts by Tracy Holczer

I’ve been thinking a lot lately as to how I became a writer. I used to have it down. I was a writer because I read Little Women and had the run of the library, both at just the right age. But I have come to realize those are just two of many pieces. Once I really reflected, I found so much more, both light and dark. I feel we try so hard to focus on the light, especially those of us who write for kids. But we are who we are because of both. There is no contrast without darkness, and contrast, I believe, is where we find the answers for ourselves. So here is a very incomplete list of the parts of this writer:

  • Loneliness. I was a lonely kid. An only child born at the tail end of the “children should be seen and not heard” era, I had tremendous space to read books and otherwise look to inanimate objects for comfort and camaraderie. I didn’t have any experience with other kids until I went to Kindergarten and was hugely surprised and disappointed when no one wanted me to teachthem how to tell time in Roman numerals. I mean, we were there to learn, right? Even the nuns treated me like I was a little off my nut.

  • Sensitivity. I took things hard. Like in second grade when Ms. Parsons got married and would become Mrs. Harrison half way through the year (I abhorred change), or in third grade when Sister Michael Anne read us Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. There were several times over my school career that I thought I would die from sadness.

  • Librarians. After my parents told me I couldn’t read anymore because reading was “anti-social”, we moved across the street from a library when I was twelve. I snuck over there every weekend as though my life depended on it. Because it did. Those librarians took me under their wing and always had books to recommend as well as knew when I needed to be left alone to my imaginings. A piece of the writer I have become was conceived in the smelly bean bag chair in the Cupertino Public Library, most likely while reading The Hobbit.

  • Flightiness – otherwise known as Creativity. I was a flighty kid. If one of my teachers read us a book about plants, maybe talking about photosynthesis, but there was a bug on one of the leaves of the plant, and it had strange spots, I would be that kid asking why the bug had spots. My mind never seemed to travel down the right channels. At least not the ones my teachers wanted it to travel down. Every report card I ever received in elementary school pointed out my flightiness and “if she would only apply herself”. I never quite understood what that meant. I get it now, but I so wish they had pointed out my creativity, too. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken me so long to recognize it in myself.

  • Stubbornness.  Holy tamales but I am stubborn. Because I wasn’t a brilliant student, and didn’t finish college, I never really fell into anyone’s spotlight. Teachers liked me, but no one ever singled me out. I floated down the stream of public school with my mostly B’s, sometimes A’s, not causing any trouble. No one expected very much of me and I didn’t expect very much of myself. It wasn’t until I decided I would teach myself to write that I truly found my stubbornness to be useful.

  • BOOKS. All the books.

As a writer for children, I find myself in the incredible position to be able to possibly, maybe, in my wildest dreams, make a difference. I hope my books will bring both light and dark to kids so they get the whole spectrum of what it feels like to be alive and in charge of their destinies. I hope to be able to share my journey with those children so they really get the fact that they are a work in progress and even the most lonely, sensitive, and flighty of us can do great things if we set our stubborn minds to it. We are the sum of our parts in the best possible way.

At eleven years old, Tracy Holczer read Little Women, and decided she wanted to be a writer. Feathered ball-point pen in hand, she wrote short blood-curdling stories and long, angst-ridden poems through the rest of her childhood. When she was a teen, her family moved to Grass Valley, California where she convinced her mother to get her glasses, even though she didn’t need them, so she would look smart. This is where Tracy decided she would be the next John Steinbeck and write about the glory of trees.

When she grew up, she took a few detours and worked as a sales clerk, a credit analyst, and a waitress in a honky-tonk bar. Somewhere in there, single momhood happened, so she added impersonating Santa Claus and Spider Assassin to her list of jobs. Eventually, she ended up in Southern California, Instead, Tracy gets to raise her three daughters from home, plan things like the Halloween Carnival for the PTA, and write stories.

Tracy Holczer is the author of The Secret Hum of a Daisy.  Hum was written in praise of both the imperfection of family, the perfection of nature and all that can be found if you’re willing to learn from your detours.

Tracy’s blog:
Tracy’s website: