Boy's Best Friend

Boy's Best Friend


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Eleven-year-old George has a dog, Bart, who seems to know everything about him—from when he is feeling sad to when he will arrive home from school. George's new neighbor and classmate, Lester, also has a dog, Bill Gates, and Lester thinks he is the smartest animal in the world. When their teacher assigns a school science project about animal behavior, George and Lester decide to conduct an experiment based on the world-famous Rupert Sheldrake's experiments about dogs. George even has an e-mail exchange with Dr. Sheldrake to help him with the project—and he and Lester soon find out that, through a few simple experiments, kids can make scientific discoveries, too.

Award-winning author Kate Banks teams up with world-famous Ruper Sheldrake in Boy's Best Friend to create a book that's sure to be a hit with dog lovers and little scientists everywhere.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250079725
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 12/27/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Kate Banks is the author of many picture books and novels. The Horn Book called her novel, The Magician's Apprentice, "lyrical, imagistic, and thought-provoking." She lives in the South of France with her family.

Dr. Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and the author of ten previous books. He studied at Harvard and Cambridge Universities and works on projects funded by many institutions around the world. He lives in London with his wife.

Read an Excerpt

Boy's Best Friend

By Kate Banks, Rupert Sheldrake

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2015 Kate Banks
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-374-38009-0


"Moving is fun. Change can be positive." Lester Shoe repeated his mantra a dozen times, then a dozen more as he tried to fall asleep. A mantra was a group of syllables or words that carried power to make things turn out a certain way. It had been his mother's idea for him to try this. She chanted "Om" each morning for happiness and peace, and it seemed to work. She was always cheerful.

"Repeating a mantra quiets the mind," Lester's mother had said. "And it provides comfort in trying times." Then she had reached her palms skyward and bent forward into an upside-down V. Lester's mother was a yoga teacher and spent a lot of time in strange and unusual positions.

These were certainly trying times for Lester, who had moved from Denver to Cape Cod just after Easter and was going to start a new school in two days' time.

"A mantra can even unlock great virtues within," Lester's mother had added.

Lester liked the idea that there might be great virtues lurking within him waiting to be unleashed, and he wondered what those might be.

"Like what?" he'd asked.

His mother had said, "Oh, I don't know." But then she'd reeled off a list of attributes, some of which Lester felt he lacked. "Courage, confidence, patience, sacrifice, serenity."

"Oh," Lester had said, picking up a pencil and scribbling the words in his notebook, right next to a doodle of President Obama. Lester loved to doodle. In fact, doodling seemed to provide Lester with one of those virtues — serenity.

"But you need to be persistent for it to work," his mother had added.

Persistence. That was another quality that Lester felt he could use more of.

"Moving is fun. Change can be positive," Lester said to his dog, Bill Gates, who was curled up on the foot of Lester's new bed. "Moving is fun. Change can be positive." Eventually Lester's eyes closed and he fell asleep.

In the morning Lester sat up and looked around. "Where am I?" he said. The periwinkle-colored walls and the sparkling white window sashes were painfully unfamiliar. Lester tossed Bill Gates an old corduroy slipper. "I was dreaming about a spaceship," he said. "What were you dreaming? Do dogs even dream?"

Bill Gates bent his head to one side and looked at Lester in earnest. Lester imagined him saying, "Well, sure we do."

Lester petted Bill Gates on the crown of his head. "Of course you do," he said. "I mean, why wouldn't you?"

Bill Gates was a big dog — part mongrel, part golden retriever. Lester was four years old when he'd gotten him, and he was like a sibling, of which Lester had none.

Lester leaned over and nuzzled the dog's neck. "You're better than a brother or sister," he said. "Brothers and sisters fight. We never fight." Then he rolled off the bed and went to his desk. Lester glanced at the list of virtues in his notebook, then took the fat dictionary from his bookshelf. He turned to the word "virtue" and scanned the qualities in the definition. There were lots of them. Lester chose those that he felt were most important and added them to his list. Lester liked making lists. They made him feel organized and orderly — two other virtues. He had a list of his favorite movies, favorite songs, favorite places.

"Acceptance, Cleanliness, Honor, Joyfulness, Reliability, and Loyalty," Lester said aloud. Then he checked off the last one. "I might not be confident or patient," he said to Bill Gates. "But I think I'm pretty loyal, don't you?"

Lester closed his notebook and sketched a portrait of himself on the cover — a thin figure flanked by a large dog. Lester was hardly thin. In fact, he was slightly overweight.

"Plump," he called himself. "But I'm sure I'll grow out of it," he continued to tell his mother.

Lester walked across the hall to the bathroom. He stood before the toilet and took aim. Back in Denver he could stand gazing out the window at the giant oak in the front yard and pee without looking. This toilet was a different shape and he had to pay attention lest he miss the mark. The window was in back of him so he stood facing a tile wall speckled with octopuses and starfish, which seemed to be staring at him.

Lester washed his hands and leaned over the faucet for a drink. He sloshed the water around in his mouth. "Even the water here tastes different from the water in Denver," he said, sighing.

Lester nudged Bill Gates down the stairs. Bill Gates had been lethargic of late and Lester had attributed it to the move.

"I know it's hard at the beginning," said Lester, repeating what his parents had told him. "You don't know other dogs. Everything is new and feels weird and different. But don't worry. You'll make new friends and you'll end up loving it here just as much as you love Denver." Lester paused. His mother was calling him.

"Lester, you forgot to take out the garbage last night. Would you please do it now?"

"Sure," said Lester. He went to the kitchen and stopped to pet the parrot housed in a cage next to the refrigerator.

"What's up, Carlos?" said Lester.

"What's up?" echoed Carlos. Lester guessed that was his mantra. Carlos knew at least fifty words, but those were his favorites.

Lester opened the refrigerator, took out a round of cheese, and popped it into his mouth.

"What's up?" chirped Carlos a second time.

"Why do I have to take out the garbage?" asked Lester.

"Because you don't have any brothers or sisters," said his mother, who was unloading the dishwasher.

"That's not my fault," murmured Lester, lifting the garbage bag and heading out the door followed by Bill Gates. Something about dropping the bag into the garbage can left him with an inexplicable feeling of emptiness.

Lester returned to the kitchen and sat down at the table. "I feel like I left something behind in Denver," he said.

"Like what?" asked his mother, smiling.

"Like part of me," said Lester. "The stuffing or something."

Lester's mother's smile rippled into a look of puzzlement. "How's that?" she asked.

Lester shrugged. "I just feel kind of empty."

Lester's mother's smile returned to normal. She seemed happy about his emptiness. "Well, I'm sure you'll find plenty here to fill up those spaces," she said. "And you can start with this," she added, setting an omelet and two slices of buttered toast in front of him.

"I guess," said Lester, but he wasn't convinced. "Moving is fun. Change can be positive." He took a bite of the omelet, then looked at his mother. "Are you sure this mantra stuff works?" he asked.

Lester's mother nodded her head knowingly. "Yes," she said with confidence. That was one of her virtues.

Lester nodded back. Then the front door flew open and in came Lester's dad, back from an early morning jog. He was a sports journalist and he was the reason for the move. He'd gotten a new job.

"What a place for running," he said. "Boy does that feel great." Then he turned to Lester and gave him a high five. "What's new, big guy?" he asked.

What isn't new? thought Lester.

"Everything," he said. Then he started up the stairs chanting his mantra. "Moving is fun. Change can be positive." He looked back at his father, who was stretching, folding his calf to his buttock.

When he got to his room, Lester reached down and tried to touch his toes. He did twenty jumping jacks, then pushed the bed away from the wall and jogged five laps around it. But he didn't feel any better.


Later that same day, George Masson stood in line at the grocery store waiting to pay for a pack of atomic bubble gum, an amazing invention — at least George thought so — that fizzled in your mouth when you bit into it. The line was long. George was bored, so he began to stare at the back of the head of the man in front of him. He waited for the guy to turn around. After several seconds the man looked at George and George turned away.

When it was his turn to pay, George put the money on the conveyer belt and popped a piece of gum into his mouth, slipping the box into a pocket. Then he hopped on his bike and headed home. He stopped at a traffic light and stared at the back of a pedestrian's head. The pedestrian turned and looked at George strangely.

"Hi," said George.

"Hi," said the pedestrian.

George took a left onto Acorn Street and swerved into his driveway. His older brother, Zac, was patching a tire on his bike. George stopped short and began staring at the back of his head.

Zac turned around. "What are you staring at, man?" he said.

"How'd you know I was staring?" asked George.

"Don't know," said Zac, going back to what he was doing. "I just did, and it's annoying." Then he added, "If you want to stare at someone, you can stare at Bart."

George turned to Bart, who sat at the top of the driveway wagging his tail. He was the family dog, part border collie, part mongrel.

"Hey, big guy," George said, leaning down and scratching Bart under the chin.

"You shouldn't go around staring like that," said Zac. "It's rude. Besides people will think you're a weirdo."

"Rupert Sheldrake does it," said George. "He even does experiments about it."

"Who's Rupert Sheldrake?" asked Zac.

"He's my mentor," said George.

"You don't even know what a mentor is," said Zac.

"Yes I do," said George. "It's someone you want to be like."

George had heard about Rupert Sheldrake from Kyra, his best friend, who had moved after Christmas more than seven hundred miles away to North Carolina. George's attention was drawn to the green ribbon around his wrist that Kyra had given him before she left. She had one too, and they'd promised to never take them off, but to wait until they just wore away. George fingered the edge of the ribbon, hoping that little by little, as the fabric wore away, so would the feelings of sadness he felt at Kyra's leaving.

"Rupert Sheldrake wrote a whole book about staring," said George, pinching the ends of the ribbon between his forefinger and thumb. "He discovered that almost everyone can feel or sense or just know when someone is looking at them."

"He sounds like a weirdo," said Zac.

George didn't think Rupert Sheldrake was weird. But he had to admit that he was different from most scientists. Sheldrake thought that people and animals were connected by a knowing that had yet to be explained. He thought that maybe animals had abilities that had been lost or forgotten by humans. And he wasn't afraid to test his ideas. He wrote about homing pigeons, animals who anticipated natural disasters like earthquakes or tidal waves, cats who knew when they were about to be taken to the vet. And he'd written an entire book about dogs who knew when their owners were coming home.

"Sheldrake's experiments are important," said George.

Zac shook his head. "I fail to see what's so important about staring that you'd waste your time doing it."

"Because maybe it proves that people have a sixth sense or some other type of connection," said George.

"Oh, you mean like reading minds," teased Zac.

"It's called 'telepathy,'" said George.

"Telepathy isn't science," said Zac matter-of-factly.

"Yes it is," said George. "It's part of how animals and people behave. And that's science."

George blew a giant bubble, which snapped loudly as it broke.

"Cut that out," cried Zac.

"Anyway, Rupert Sheldrake asked me to participate in one of his experiments," said George.

"Oh, did he?" said Zac. He looked doubtful.

"Sort of," said George, lowering his eyes. "He has a Web site where he invites people to do his experiments. And I'm doing one for school starting tomorrow."

"You're just a kid," said Zac.

"He says kids can participate. He even wants them to," said George. "That's because he thinks that everyone can contribute something to science whether they are real scientists or not."

Zac rolled his eyes. "Well, I hope you're not doing the staring experiment," he said. "You'll drive people crazy."

George shook his head. "I'm doing the one about dogs who know when their owners are coming home. And Bart's going to help me." George rubbed the top of Bart's head. "Aren't you?" he said.

"That Sheldrake guy doesn't sound like he's doing science," said Zac. "He sounds like he's having fun."

"He is," said George. "That's the whole point. Science can be fun."

"You'll have to prove that one," said Zac, hopping onto his bike and cruising down the driveway.


George's younger sister, Vivien, skipped into George's room and sat down on the bed that George shared with a three-foot rubber snake, a beanbag monkey, and a stuffed tiger. George loved animals, real or pretend. At times, he'd even wondered if he wasn't meant to be one of them instead of a human.

"What's wrong?" said Vivien.

"Nothing's wrong," said George, who was sitting at his desk.

"Then why are you staring at the wall?" asked Vivien. "Are you depressed?"

George repeated that word to himself. De-pressed. It really seemed to describe how he felt since Kyra left, like a little bit of him had been pushed out and gone with her. "No," he said to Vivien. "I'm just thinking." George opened to page one of the logbook for the experiment he was going to do with Bart. The first entry looked like this:











Vivien pushed her hands into the mattress and bounced up and down. She was eight years old, a girly girl who liked ballerina costumes and barrettes and shoes with sparkles. There were other girly girls at school, but George didn't quite know what to make of them. He preferred tomboys, like Kyra. She liked sports and science like George did, and loved doing experiments — and eating Kit Kats. The memory of Kyra's Kit Kats made George smile. He thought it was neat that simply thinking of something could make you smile. George thought about Kyra and all the fun they'd had together. It was Kyra's father who had gotten Kyra and George interested in experiments. He studied homing pigeons for a hobby.

Vivien jumped off the bed and peeked over George's shoulder at the open notebook on his desk. "What's that?" she asked.

"It's my logbook for an experiment I'm doing," said George.

Vivien ran her finger across the edge of the page where George had scribbled Rupert Sheldrake's name. "Who's Rupert Sheldrake?" she asked.

"A scientist," said George. "A biologist."

"What's a biologist?" asked Vivien.

"Someone who studies animals and their behavior," said George. "Stuff like that."

"Oh," said Vivien, still looking puzzled. She glanced down at George's ankles, which were wrapped one around the other beneath the chair.

"Your socks don't match," she said.

George looked down at his feet. One sock was dark blue, the other several shades lighter. He'd put them on without even noticing. "I wonder how that happened?" he said.

Vivien shrugged. "I guess you weren't paying attention," she said.

"Guess not," said George. He rarely paid attention to what he wore. He reached into his drawer in the morning and pulled out whatever he came to first. It didn't matter to him if he paired red with orange, or mixed plaids with stripes. It seemed to matter to other people, though, like his mother and Charlotte Peacock. Charlotte sat next to George at school, and she claimed to get a headache when he wore colors that clashed. George guessed it was because she didn't have any imagination. Or maybe he had too much.

George looked at his logbook. Suddenly he found himself imagining writing to Rupert Sheldrake. He wasn't sure what he would say. But he imagined Rupert Sheldrake responding. George smiled, then turned to Vivien. "If a total stranger wrote to you, would you write back?" he asked.

"Sure," said Vivien.

George realized that was a silly question. Vivien would write to anyone. She loved to write. She'd write to herself.

George's father's voice drifted up the staircase. "Dinner's ready," he called.

"Coming," George said. He followed Vivien down the staircase. Mr. Masson was in the kitchen putting the final touches on a platter of roast beef. He was an engineer by trade but he also loved to cook.

"Where's Mom?" asked George, taking the platter to the table.

"In here," cried Mrs. Masson, who was in her office off the kitchen. She was a pastry chef and catered from home.


Excerpted from Boy's Best Friend by Kate Banks, Rupert Sheldrake. Copyright © 2015 Kate Banks. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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