In this fun young-middle-grade novel with STEM appeal, Parker really wants to win the school Science Triathlon—but first she’ll have to figure out how to keep her BFF from being stolen.Budding scientist Parker Bell really wants to win the school Science Triathlon and follow in the footsteps of her idols, chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall and astronaut Mae Jemison. She’s sure that if she teams up with her trivia whiz BFF, Cassie, they will dominate the Science Bee, Egg Drop, and Animal Adaptation Presentation. When Cassie invites her new friend, Theo, to join their team, Parker is worried—that Theo won't help them win and might steal her best friend. As the three work together, Parker learns that you don’t have to be the best to be a real scientist and a good friend.
About the Author
Cynthia Platt is a children's book editor and the author of several books for kids, including the picture books Grow, A Little Bit of Love, and Panda-Monium!, and the middle grade novel Parker Bell and the Science of Friendship. cynthiaplattbooks.com@C_E_PlattRea Zhai is an illustrator living in Beijing, China. reazhaiart.com @zhazhazhaart
Read an Excerpt
The Fashion Experiment
Parker Bell loved science. One day, she hoped to be a world-famous scientist, making important discoveries and engineering robots to help people do amazing and exciting things. But first, she had to finish going to Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary School. And before she did that, she had to get dressed for what was going to be one of the best, most important days of science at school ever. The getting dressed part was proving difficult. “Parker, just pick out some clothes. It doesn’t matter which ones!” her mom called. “You’re going to be late.” “I’ll be right there!” Parker yelled back. Still in her pajamas, Parker stood in front of her closet and tried to figure out what to wear so she would look strong and smart and scientific. After trying on (and taking back off again) three different outfits, though, she knew she needed a plan. But where to start? If Parker could use a scientific method of inquiry for her experiments, maybe she could use that to get dressed, too. She figured it was worth a try. INITIAL QUESTION: What is the perfect outfit to wear for today’s Big Science Announcement? BRAINSTORM SOLUTIONS: Dressing like a fierce animal might show everyone how fierce my interest in science is. GATHER DATA: In my closet, I have dresses in zebra and leopard patterns, and a black-and-white one that looks like an orca. Orcas are definitely the smartest of those three animals. USE DATA TO MAKE A PREDICTION: So if I dress like an orca, then my classmates and Ms. Garcia will see how smart and scientific I am. Everyone will notice this and know how excited I am about science and the announcement today! Okay, so this wasn’t strictly scientific. But at least Parker could get the reactions of her parents and friends to have some evidence to communicate about her experiment afterward. Treating it as an experiment also definitely helped her pick out the right clothes for the day: her black-and-white dress and black boots with tassels on the back. To top off her outfit, she put on a satin headband with tiny orcas embroidered all over it. Because today she needed to be strong and smart, just like an orca. When Parker stopped to gaze at herself in the mirror, she knew she had a great look going. Then she saw her favorite scientists staring at her from the posters over her bed. Jane Goodall had a look of gentle disappointment on her face. The same one Parker’s mother had worn when Parker took apart the toaster in her Mad Science Lab last summer to see how it worked. It had frustrated Parker and her mother when Parker discovered toasters are easier to take apart than put back together. “I know you don’t dress up,” Parker told Poster Jane. “But just because you live with chimpanzees doesn’t mean that I do!” This didn’t seem to change Jane’s mind in any way, so Parker turned to her other favorite scientist. “You get it, Mae,” she said. “I know you do.” Mae Jemison smiled down at Parker from her poster, looking pretty amazing herself in her orange astronaut flight suit. Parker could see that Mae understood. “And you do too, don’t you, Algebra?” Parker knelt by her guinea pig’s cage to scratch the little piggy behind his ears, making him squeak happily. She flicked the lever on the robotic guinea pig feeder she’d built over the course of last summer. She’d attached some of the toaster parts to cogs from her Mad Science Lab. It turned out that the same device that lifted bread out of the toaster was also great for lifting a box of rodent pellets, which then poured through a funnel into Algebra’s bowl. Parker had thought the robotic feeder was a great way to recycle and reuse, but her mom hadn’t been too thrilled about having to buy a new toaster. And now her mom was calling from down the hall. “PARKER! You’re going to miss the bus!” “Oops—coming!” Parker called back. She turned to Algebra. “I’ll catch your sweet furry face later.” She could hear Algebra squeaking loudly as she ran to the kitchen. She paused in the kitchen doorway, waiting for her mom to look up and notice her orca outfit. This was the first test of her fashion experiment, and Parker couldn’t wait to see what would happen! But her mother looked at her as if this were any other day and any other outfit. “Dad brought these up from the bakery,” her mom said, pointing to two ginormous blueberry muffins. “One for you and one for Cassie. You’re going to have to eat on the bus, though, because you’re so late.” Parker stayed in the doorway for another second, hoping her mother would say something else. Something maybe about her scientifically chosen outfit. “What are you waiting for?” her mom said, totally skipping over the important stuff. “The bus is coming!” Parker’s first test of her prediction was a bust. Her mom totally didn’t notice any correlation between Parker’s clothes and the Big Science Announcement at school. With a sigh, Parker scooped up the muffins and opened the back door, yelling down to the bakery on the first floor, “Thanks, Dad!” before running downstairs to catch the bus. “Have a good day!” her mom called behind her. Parker still thought she was the most amazing mom ever, even if she didn’t test well with Parker’s scientifically chosen fashion. Or understand Parker’s sense of style in general. Or appreciate her interest in taking apart small appliances in the name of science. Besides, Parker was very sure her best friend, Cassie Malouf, would understand her outfit and prove that it was scientifically the best she could have worn.
When Parker got on the bus, though, she didn’t see Cassie in their seat, the sixth row on the left. Cassie was always in their seat. Instead, Theo Zachary was sitting there, being his extra-tall, big-eared self. Parker was not a big fan of Theo. He had been her science partner once in second grade. He didn’t talk to her at all during the entire class. And he spilled so much water during their sink-or-float experiment that nothing could sink or float in the end. They got a one out of four on that assignment. Parker Bell had never gotten a one out of four in science before that. Ever. It hadn’t been a good feeling. Now Theo was on her school bus. Sitting in her seat. Where Cassie should be sitting. “Parker!” Cassie called. She was sitting in the ninth row on the right, in a seat that definitely wasn’t theirs. Parker and Cassie had been best friends since the first day of kindergarten. They had read a story in class about a girl and her baby sister, and Parker had gotten down in the dumps on the bus ride home. No matter how much she wanted one, there was no baby sister happening in her family. “And there isn’t going to be one, honey,” her mom would remind her whenever Parker brought it up. “Having a baby sister isn’t all that,” Cassie had reassured her. “Mine stinks.” At first Parker had thought Cassie meant she didn’t like having a baby sister. “No, I mean she smells bad,” Cassie had told her. “Her diapers are the worst of the worst.” Five-year-old Parker wasn’t convinced. “Even if she’s smelly, she’s still yours,” she’d replied. “I’m all by myself.” With a shrug, Cassie had said, “It’s much better to have a best friend than a baby sister.” That had only made Parker feel worse. Not only did she not have a baby sister, she wasn’t all that sure she had a best friend. Or any friends. She mentioned this to Cassie. “You have me,” Cassie told her. “I’ll be your best friend.” They had been besties ever since.
Now Parker rushed past Theo on the bus to find her BFF. “Why’s he on our bus?” Parker asked as she handed Cassie a muffin. “And in our seat?” “I don’t know,” Cassie mumbled through a mouthful of muffin. “I should have asked when we were talking just now.” “You were talking to Theo Zachary?” Parker asked. “Why?” “He’s in the new Coders’ Club with me,” Cassie told her. “We’re going to make a video game together. He’s nice.” A bad feeling started to brew in Parker’s stomach, as if she’d mixed vinegar and baking soda together inside her and made a fizzy volcanic eruption. Parker wasn’t in the Coders’ Club for one simple reason: all they ever seemed to do was make online games, and she didn’t like to play them, let alone code them. But Cassie loved playing these games and also trying to make them herself. While Parker knew that Cassie had joined the Coders’ Club, she hadn’t known that her best friend was now gamer friends with Theo. Parker hadn’t known Cassie was friends with anyone other than her. Cassie didn’t seem to notice that Parker had gone quiet. Now that Parker was thinking about it, Cassie hadn’t noticed her outfit, either. Parker’s scientific fashion experiment had totally failed. No one knew she was a strong and smart orca ready for amazing science announcements. “Hey,” Cassie said, nudging Parker’s shoulder. Her best friend opened The Big Book of Ginormous Facts. Parker had given it to Cassie for her birthday. Cassie couldn’t put it down. “‘Orcas are some of the fiercest hunters in nature. How fierce are they?’” Cassie read. “‘Sometimes they play with their food, tossing seals high in the air before eating them. Just to show them who’s boss!’” “That is fierce,” Parker agreed. She was wondering whether or not to tell her BFF about her failed experiment when Cassie said, “And your orca outfit is fierce too.” At last Parker had some good results! She was so happy she’d worn black and white to look like an orca today. She was extra-super happy she had the kind of best friend who noticed things like that. Sure, her test results were incomplete, but it wasn’t a real scientific inquiry after all. Her mother was a PE teacher who always dressed like she was in PE class (even on Saturdays!), so she probably would never notice good fashion, scientifically chosen or otherwise. Cassie, on the other hand, noticed every tiny detail about everything. It was one of the reasons Parker loved her so much. And it was almost enough to make Parker forget that Cassie was becoming friends with Theo Zachary. Almost, but not quite.