Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #13

Genre: Contemporary Middle Grade
Word Count: 44,000


Eleven-year-old Isaac Sanchez has never belonged anywhere or mattered to anyone. But he’s only a little bitter—like dark chocolate, not like dish soap. Mostly he’s just lonely and lost. When the mom who abandoned him as a baby comes back and asks for another chance, Isaac struggles to adapt to a whole new life with a whole new family.

Then Isaac receives his father’s old copy of Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica and discovers that he has more in common with the greatest scientist in history than just first names: a dead dad he never knew (check), a deadbeat mom he doesn't remember (check), and a crummy history of being the smallest, most picked-on kid in the neighborhood (check and check). All of the things that made him feel insignificant now convince Isaac that, like Newton, he is destined to become super rich, rock-star famous, and one of the greatest geniuses of all time.

Isaac decides to follow in Newton’s footsteps. He gets pet mice, wears red every day, shuns his new family, tries to spook the neighbors by flying glowing kites after dark, and uses Newton's favorite fruit (apples, of course) for a projectile experiment that goes horribly wrong. He even solves the secret code his dad wrote in the margins of Principia. But his most surprising discovery of all is that he may be able to forgive his mom and care about his sisters, and they might care about him too. When Isaac's scientific pursuits cause a life-threatening accident, he must decide whether his "destiny" is worth the price.

DISCOVERING ISAAC contains sneaky bits of physics, history, and biology. My previous publications include pieces in the children's magazines Friend and New Era. I am also the lead author of several scientific papers in some of the nation’s top chemistry journals, which are every bit as riveting as you’d imagine. I currently teach chemistry at Southern Utah University and am a member of SCBWI.

First 250:

Isaac Newton: “For the natural days are truly unequal, though they are commonly considered as equal, and used for a measure of time…”

Isaac Sanchez: Every day has 24 hours, but that doesn’t mean they’re equal. Some days, it seems like about 24 hours too many.

It all started with baseball.
I hated baseball.
I would’ve rather yanked out my own nose hairs one by one in front of the whole sixth grade wearing only yesterday’s underwear than play a baseball game. But every year, my grandma made me play. I had no choice. The worst thing about torture is that it’s not optional.
So there I was, ten minutes before the first pitch of the season, willing to give up my whole life savings (four dollars) if I could just find my mitt.
I heard Grandma calling my name from the front door. It was past time to go, and she hated to be late. I dumped out my junk drawer. No mitt. I heard her footsteps coming down the stairs as I chucked the shoes from my closet floor. No mitt. She opened the door without even knocking and stared down at me as I scooped an armload of dirty clothes and second-hand comic books from underneath my bed. No mitt.
Grandma frowned at my mess.
“No mitt,” I said, holding out my empty hands. A little hope rose in my chest. “We could just skip it.”


  1. A coming-of-age story intermixed with math and science! And I like the writing.

    I'd love to see this in a bookstore (and not just because we named our son Isaac :) ).

  2. Cool concept! Love how you incorporate science into this story. Good luck!

  3. I really enjoyed the writing, and especially how you lead off the story with the quick, short sentences. It put me right into the character's head. It made me feel like I knew him, and could feel like he did. Good job!

  4. Great premise, and you did a stellar job of getting Isaac's voice across in the query. I really get a sense of him as a character and would want to read more, based on the query. There's humor and heart in here.

    Isaac's voice comes across, too, in the opening 250. That being said, I do think the stakes could be higher on this first page. Why does it matter that he doesn't like baseball? What is it that makes Isaac stand out as a character? (There are plenty of kids that don't like baseball). I realize these are questions that will probably get answered gradually, but I would like to see Isaac stand out as a unique character from page one. The uniqueness is there in the query, so I'd like to see it brought forth more on the page.

  5. Aw, I remember loving this one in another contest and I still love it now. Good luck!

  6. It sounds like a story I would have loved my son to read when he was younger. Kind of like a male Pippi Longstockings. I loved Pippi Longstockings... Great job. Good luck.

  7. Love this one! Good job!

    Very nice opening lines in your 250, and I especially like the one about yanking nose hairs - owee!

    'I had no choice. The worst thing about torture is that it’s not optional.' - not quite as sold on these lines - they seem a little redundant. Maybe consider cutting them.

    Nice on the 'four dollars' bit!

    Very nice work, I'd keep reading.

  8. Smart and cool premise!
    The query is so strong, I love it!
    The first lines of your 250 words made me smile.
    I want to read more!

  9. I love this. I don't really have anything to add, I'm just super-impressed by the quality of MG I'm seeing in this contest! I would totally read this.