I have a four-year old grandson named Daniel, and Daniel loves, loves, loves books. Both his parents are mathematicians, and his maternal grandparents are ceramic engineers. Suffice it to say, Daniel is a very smart guy (awfully cute, too) and probably thinks the nerdish elders in his life represent the middle of the bell curve.
In other words, he’s Larry Hench’s kind of kid.
Hench, a Distinguished Life Member of ACerS, is best known for discovering the 45S5 glass composition known worldwide as Bioglass. The glass promotes bone and tooth repair by bringing the chemical raw materials to the surface of the wound or damaged tooth, which allows the body’s internal handyman to bring just the “tools” for “rebuilding” the site from the inside. We’ve written recently about the glass in (or not in) GlaxoKlineSmith’s Repair & Protect toothpaste. He’s made significant contributions in many other areas of ceramic and glass science, too.
Hench, like my Daniel, is a very smart guy. When Hench’s grandchildren were old enough to enjoy story books, he was frustrated by the dearth of books that accurately relayed basic scientific principles and the common caricature portrayal of scientists as nerdy, absentminded goofballs.
So, he decided to do something to correct the situation and show how scientists and engineers contribute solutions to real human problems. A natural storyteller, Hench wrote a book for children about a boy named Daniel (great name) who is allergic to cats and cannot have one as a pet. Daniel has the good fortune to befriend Professor George, “a kindly and wise neighbor and bioengineer from the local university,” according to the Boing-Boing Foundation website. The good professor takes to his lab and builds a bionic cat for Daniel, whom they name Boing-Boing. B-B is remarkably life like—he purrs, is warm, has cat-like moves, and glowing feline eyes—all controlled by his computer guts. The cat even has fiber optic fur for recharging the belly batteries.
How the cat gets his name is part of the story, and I’m not providing any spoilers!
So far there are six books in the series, which is targeted at 6–8 year olds. Hench expanded the product line to include puzzles, workbooks, experiment kits, and other activities. He even has a prototype Boing-Boing that he has taken into classrooms.
Inquiring minds will want to know whether there are reviews. Yes, of course there are, and you can read them on the Foundation website or Amazon. The books can be purchased from both websites and run about $7 each.
Here is a sampling from the Foundation website:
“This one of a kind eccentric and intriguing picture book tells the story of Daniel who cannot have a pet because he is allergic to cats. Enter Professor George who is inspired by the challenge of creating a bionic cat. The right reader/listener will be mesmerized by this glimpse into the world of robot engineering.” —Parent’s Choice Magazine
“I think the book was cool! The cat’s fur was weird. I liked it when the cat said BOING-BOING! It was funny!! I hope you write a lot more books because they are funny to me! We’ll see ya! PS: Boing-Boing!!!!!” —Dianza S. (3rd grade)
“I think the story was awesome. It was so good I am going to give you some good ideas for a good Boing-Boing story…” —Tery L. (3rd grade)
“I liked the book because of how clearly you explained how the cat works. It was quite funny when the cat said “BOING-BOING”. I think that it was a good idea because it made me laugh!” —Janice P. (9 years old)
There are a few reviews on Amazon, too, but all are written by adults, so it’s hard to say how valuable they are!
The books in the series are
Boing-Boing the Bionic Cat
Boing-Boing the Bionic Cat: Tale of the Jewel Thief
Boing-Boing the Bionic Cat: The Lion’s Claws
Boing-Boing the Bionic Cat: The Flying Trapeze
Boing-Boing the Bionic Cat: The Mummy’s Revenge
Boing-Boing the Bionic Cat and the Space Station
I’ll be picking up a few of these books for my grandson for Christmas presents. PLEASE—do not tell him!