Boy’s Best Friend, by Kate Banks and Rupert Sheldrake (Farrar Strauss Giroux Books, 2015, 213 pages, $15.99, grades 4-7)
Boy’s Best Friend, Dog’s Best Friend
What an intriguing idea! A book about science but the science sneaks into a kid’s novel* about boys and their dogs – a Border Collie on the front cover and a Golden Retriever on the back cover (a Golden named Bill Gates, as a matter of fact).
Enter Dr. Sheldrake
One boy moves from Denver to Cape Cod and must adjust even to sandwiches tasting different. The other boy misses his best friend, a girl, who moved to North Carolina. The two boys carry out a school science experiment together about their dogs knowing when they will return home from school.
Lester and George also email Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, a British biochemist and TED presenter, who studies parapsychology and wrote eight books, co-authoring seven more. The science experiment about the dogs is taken from Dr. Sheldrake’s book, Dogs That Know When Their Owners are Coming Home.
One boy practices virtues and both stare at the backs of people’s heads, trying to get them to turn around (like mothers seem to have eyes in the back of their heads), another idea of Dr. Sheldrake’s**. They are thinking about telepathy and discuss it with the scientist, who also manages to teach the boys about random sampling.
Science is Life (Especially Biology)
The 11-year-old boys learn that what they learn from science applies to life, too. Sometimes what they learn is unexpected so it pays to keep an open mind. For example, many birds have two homes: a summer home and a winter home. So, it is OK for Lester to begin to like Cape Cod and to still yearn for Denver – his two homes are east and west rather than north and south, like the birds. Birds come back, just like the boomerang that both boys have.
“Mysteries of Everyday Life”
Is Mrs. Robarts a criminal: what is she hiding in her shed? Why do some names have words inside them and does that mean anything (like Joyner contains ‘joy’)? How does this all connect together into one book?
Science is a mystery indeed, at least until you read about it and ponder questions and come up with gems like a mint: an entire winter day in a compact white candy.
Read All About It: Boys and Dogs Together Doing Science
Who knows? You may end up starting your own science experiment*** and emailing a famous author or scientist after reading Boy’s – and getting a reply!
*Or is this a science book disguised as a kid’s book?
**The Sense of Being Stared At: and other aspects of the extended mind, by Rupert Sheldrake
***For ideas, see Rupert Sheldrake’s Seven Experiments That Could Change the World: a do-it-yourself guide to revolutionary science